MANILA – Several majority and minority members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday criticized the chamber’s passage of a bill that provides government forces increased powers against suspected terrorists.
House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman raised concerns that House Bill 6875 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 would be used to quell legitimate dissent in the guise of anti-terrorism.
“Sa pagtalakay ng batas na ito, may isang bagay na luminaw sa akin: Mas pinahalagahan ng panukala ang pagpapalawak ng saklaw ng kung sino ang puwedeng ituring na terorista, kaysa sa pagtukoy at paghuli sa totoong mga terorista,” he said.
Hataman, who also represents the lone district of Basilan, lamented that no one from the Muslim community, whom he said could be mostly affected by the implications of this legislation, was invited during the hearing.
“This law is not meant to combat terrorism. It is meant to give the state the power to tag whomever they please as a terrorist,” he said.
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. also slammed his colleagues for copying the Senate version of the bill.
“The House of Representatives – with all the brilliant minds and learned men and women in this chamber – simply adopted the Senate version of the anti-terror bill and did not even saw it fit to deliberate and formulate its own version,” he said.
“Sa ating pagmamadali na maipasa ang anti-terror bill, ipinakita natin sa buong madla na ang House of Representatives ay tama ngang tawaging – mababang kapulungan o lower House,” added Abante, who also represents the Manila’s 6th District.
For Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, the proposed law is worrisome because of its draconian provisions such as warrantless arrest, authorized wiretapping, and red-tagging of groups.
“The bill contains vague and nebulous provisions, which are so ambiguous and whose implementation is given to the sole discretion of arresting officers or to the Anti-Terror Council or the AMLAC (Anti-Money Laundering Council), which are adjuncts of the executive,” he said.
ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate also said the bill infringes on human rights and liable to abuse.
Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat also expressed dissent against the measure, citing his personal experience of being tagged as a terrorist during the 2019 polls.
While initially listed as the bill’s co-author, Cabatbat made it his personal mission to propose clear and strong safeguards in the bill to protect farmers and other vulnerable sectors.
He also pleaded during the interpellation that the proposed law deepen the understanding of dissent, especially from disempowered sectors.
For Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, the measure will bring a chilling effect to ordinary citizens.
“Hindi ang mga may armas na nangho-hostage at nambobomba ang pangunahing tatamaan ng panukalang ito. Dahil sa aktwal, mga ordinaryong mamamayang galit sa gobyerno ang unang maaresto kapag pinirmahan ito,” she said.
On Wednesday, the lower House voted 173 in favor to pass the bill, with 31 voting no while 29 abstained.
If the bill becomes law, the government will be allowed to wiretap suspects, arrest them without a warrant, and hold them without charge for 14 days, among other provisions. - Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News