THE Senate, with a vote of 19-2 with no abstention, has approved a bill providing authorities the power to track down suspected terrorists through tapping, intercepting, and recording spoken and written conversations.
Senate Bill 1083, or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, aims to curb terrorism by prosecuting and penalizing “those who have committed, about to commit, and those who support terroristic acts,” said author Senator Panfilo Lacson.
"We need a strong legal structure that deals with terrorism to exact accountability, liability and responsibility. Those who have committed, are about to commit, or are supporting those who commit terroristic acts should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly," the senator said.
Minority Senators Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros dissented.
Pangilinan, who explained his “no” vote said that the measure may be used to abuse privacy as authorities are allowed to conduct 60-day surveillance on alleged terrorists, compelling telcos to divulge their calls and messages, and use the bill against critics of the government.
“The current law is not perfect, and we, in Congress, should be working continuously to make it work for the people. The amendments are worrisome and could make the Human Security Act an even worse tool for repression, instead of an instrument for thwarting terrorists,” said Pangilinan.
Under Section 4 of the bill, a terrorist is any individual who engages in acts intended to cause death or serious injury to any person, intends to cause extensive damage to a government or public facility, and engages in acts that cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure.
An individual may also be tagged as terrorist if he or she develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transports, supplies or uses weapons, and releases dangerous substances which can cause fire, floods or explosions.
Section 29 of the bill also allows authorities to detain alleged terrorists without judicial warrant of arrest.
A person suspected of committing any of the acts defined will be imprisoned for 14 days counted from the moment the suspect has been apprehended.
Life imprisonment without the benefit of parole will be meted to anybody who conspire to commit to terrorism.
The same penalties will be given to those who provide support or recruit terrorists.
Twelve years of imprisonment would be imposed to people who propose to commit terrorism. (SunStar Philippines)