MANILA—Vice-President Leni Robredo on Saturday denounced the passage of the anti-terror bill amid calls to scrap the measure while the country continued to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking on Teleradyo's "Omaga-Diaz Report", Robredo said the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which grants government forces sweeping powers to address terrorism, contained provisions that make it susceptible to abuse.
"Nu'ng nalaman ko na nilagdaan, parang nanghina ako. Nakakalungkot. Frustrating. Kasi ginawa ito sa kabila ng nasa gitna tayo ng matinding pandemya. Ginawa ito sa kabila ng maraming pagtutol ng maraming sector," she said.
Robredo said she believes the law, marked urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, was railroaded in Congress despite a decision by a number of lawmakers withdrawing their support for it.
" 'Yung sa akin, kaisa naman ako sa paniwala na ang terorismo ay malaking problema ng ating bansa at dapat talagang maghanap tayo ng paraan para masugpo ito pero sa akin kasi 'yung timing, 'yung prosesong nangyari sa House of Representatives, 'yung ilang probisyon na palagay ko at palagay ng marami ay napakabukas ito para sa pang-aabuso," she said.
The measure was approved by the House of Representatives in June. The Senate passed in February a similar bill that seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007.
Among the law's contentious features includes warrantless arrest, prolonged detention without charges and the designation of any person or group as terrorists, Robredo said.
With the enactment of the measure, the Vice President urged the public to "push back" by challenging the law's constitutionality before the high court and engaging with Congress to repeal or amend certain provisions of the law.
"Sana huwag tayong mawalan ng pag-asa . . . Kahit pinanghinaan tayo ng loob, pansamantala lang ito. Ang laban nandiyan pa rin," Robredo said.
The Palace has defended Duterte's decision, saying it "demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people."
"As we have said, the President, together with his legal team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders," Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.