MANILA — Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday questioned the basis of critics of the Anti-Terror Law for claiming that the measure could spawn rights abuses and stifle legitimate dissent against the government.
Soldiers and policemen are "afraid" to lose their jobs if they violate the new law replacing the Human Security Act of 2007 and allows suspects to be detained for up to 24 days without charge, said Dela Rosa.
"After 15 years, can you cite to me an example na inabuso ng kapulisan at kasundaluhan 'yung (that the police and military abused the) Human Security Act? Hindi, so why fear? Why fear about the possible abuse?" said the lawmaker, a former chief of the national police.
"Ang mga pulis naman at sundalo ay takot din yang mawalan ng trabaho dahil mayroong mga safeguards na nakalagay sa batas na ito. Mas mabigat ang safeguards na nilagay ngayon dito,” he added.
(The police and the military are also afraid to lose their job because there are safeguards here in this law. Stricter safeguards have been provided here now)
Law enforcers can be jailed for 10 to 12 years for the wrongful arrest of terror suspects, supporters of the legislation earlier said. But critics said the law also strips away old safeguards, such as penalties for wrongful detention.
Activists and other sectors also say the definition of terrorism in the new law is vague and could strengthen President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against critics.
Critics should be "positive", look at the "intention" of the law and "read it carefully," said Dela Rosa.
The law exempts advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, he said.
"Pag nagpalabas ka ng dissent, nagprotesta ka, terorista ka na pala? Klaro man ang sinabi ng batas na iyon, hindi kasama," he told ANC.
(If you air dissent, protest, are you now a terrorist? It's clearly statement in the law that it's not included.)
"Pero please, hindi pa naman iyan na-implement, bigyan na agad ito ng malice, iyong mga pulis at kasundaluhan natin na abusuhin iyan. Give them a chance," he added.
(But please, it's not yet implemented, yet we're already giving it malice, saying the the police and military will abuse it.)
The law takes effect on July 18. At least 4 petitions are urging the Supreme Court to strike down the measure or parts of it as unconstitutional.
With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News