MANILA - The anti-terror bill that has sailed past the 3rd and final reading at the House of Representatives is not against activism, a lawmaker said Thursday.
“This measure that has been passed in the Senate and Congress is not anti-activism. It is for the prevention of terrorist attacks in our country because in the last 2 years, and in the last 20 years in fact, our country has had a lot of terrorist attacks but we do not have enough law to prevent such terrorist attacks to happen again,” said Rep. Jericho Nograles.
On ANC’s Headstart, Nograles clarified some provisions in the bill that many find unconstitutional.
He also allayed fears that ordinary citizens posting criticism against the government can be arrested when the bill, which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent, becomes a law.
“Absolutely not. That is the freedom of expression we want to support, the constitutional rights of people. What we’re trying to do here in fact that activists are free to voice their dissent, to voice their concerns without the threat of terrorism on themselves and our country,” he said.
The controversial House Bill 6875, passed during the lower chamber's session on Wednesday, with 173 House members voting yes, 31 voting no, and 29 abstentions, seeks to amend the Philippines' current anti-terrorism laws.
If it becomes a law, the government will be authorized to wiretap suspects, arrest them without warrants and hold them without charge for 14 days, among other provisions.
“it is a judicial action. The Anti-Terrorism Council cannot order a wiretap without the Court of Appeals in ordering them the same. Kailangan ng Court of Appeals bago magkaroon ng wiretap,” Nograles however claimed.
Nograles also explained that the Anti-Terrorism Council is an existing council under the Human Security Act of 2007.
“As far as the power of the council is concerned, the council can designate persons or individuals as terrorists if they are already designated by the UN Security Council. It is a matter of adoption of the UN Security Council list of terrorists around the world. Second, if there is evidence that is presented to the council that a person or a group of person may be terrorists as defined by this law,” he said.
He also stressed that under the bill, not just any law enforcement agents can arrest and detain anyone. They have to have direct order from the council first.
“The Anti-Terrorism Council is not allowed to effect an arrest if they do not have convincing evidence to ask for that said arrest. This is actually a supplemental law to other laws including Rule 113 which covers warrantless arrest,” he said.
Nograles likewise explained that this is the only arrest where the arresting officer will immediately inform the judge of the nearest court, the Commission on Human Rights, the lawyer and doctor.
“When you are wrongfully detained you can seek damages for that. Isama na yan sa wrongful arrest you can go for habeas corpus. If the government is not being clear as to why they think you’re being arrested, then you an also ask for the writ of habeas data—there are lots of civil rights and liberties that are present and we are not trying to destroy any civil right or liberty,” he said.
He said that the Senate has removed the P500,000 per day reparation for wrongful detention and this has been adopted by the House.
“From the Human Security Act of 2007 where there is a strict P500,000 per day, it was deemed not equitable. I think it is more equitable to go back to the default which is section 32 of the Civil Code,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nograles said the President may sign the bill into law or may veto certain provisions or the whole bill itself. He can also let it lapse into law. But he said if the bill is signed into law, the issues raised against it can be addressed with clarity in the implementing rules and regulations.