THE bill seeking to strengthen the country's anti-terrorism measures was approved on second reading by the House of Representatives after a plenary debate that lasted for four hours Tuesday, June 2.
Members of the House held a voice vote to approve House Bill (HB) No. 6875 despite opposition from representatives of progressive party-list organizations.
The bill has been certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte. It is similar to Senate Bill 1038, which the Senate passed on third and final reading in February 2020.
If passed into law, this measure will penalize people who will propose, conspire, prepare, or participate in acts of terrorism.
It will replace the Human Security Act that was enacted into law in 2007.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the bill might be used to abuse human rights in the country as its definition of terrorism is not specified.
"Vague ang definition kung sino ang terorista at kung ano ang terrorism at binibigyan natin ng napakalaking luwang, elbow room, ang law enforcement agencies to interpret who are terrorists and what is terrorism," said Zarate.
He said that prioritizing the bill will only add up to the Covid-19 crisis since it will further congest overcrowded detention facilities.
" It will in fact--magpapalala sa kasalukuyang crisis na dala ng pandemiya ng Covid. Dahil sa halip na ating paluwagin ang ating mga kulungan ay isasalaksak natin sa loob ng kulungan ang libu-libong mamamayan," Zarate said.
Puwersa ng Bayang Atleta (PBA) Party-list Representative Jericho Jonas Nograles, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the bill's definition of terrorism is clearly defined and polished.
"Hindi po over-broad ang ating definitions dahil na-polish na po natin ito," the Congressman said.
Nograles added that government officials who will be caught abusing the measure will also be penalized.
"Ang takot ng marami ay iaabuso daw ito ng gobyerno-- it is good na dini-discuss po natin na maabuso ba ito ng gobyerno," he said.
"Ang sagot diyan ay kung inabuso ito ng gobyerno,may kapalit na parusa sa mga government officials at mga law enforcers. 'Yun po ang mga safeguards natin dito," he added.
Gabriela representatives noted that even before the bill is passed, activist groups like Gabriela are already red-tagged and the bill would just worsen the situation.
Both the Senate and House versions allow apprehension and detention of suspected terrorists without a warrant of arrest and with a 10-day allowable extension.
The bill will also grant the police and military the authority to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, among others. (SunStar Philippines)