Members of Anti-Terrorism Council prepare to convene

SULU. The interior of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu was destroyed after the twin bombings on January 27, 2019. (File Photo)

THE country’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) is ready to convene to review the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said on Saturday, July 4, 2020.

In a public briefing, Esperon said the council will probably get a copy of the newly signed law this weekend. He said they will review the law first to ensure that all members are in agreement.

“Bagong pirma ‘yan so, magkakaroon kami ng kopya niyan most likely ngayon or bukas handa na kaming magpulong sa ATC,” Esperon said.

“Pinag-usapan namin na kung kami ay magpupulong na ay pag-uusapan namin ang review ng signed law para magkaintindihan kaming lahat,” he said.

The council is chaired by the Executive Secretary. The National Security Adviser sits as vice chairperson.

Members are the Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Local Government, Finance, Justice, and Information and Communications Technology, as well as the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council secretariat.

Esperon said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) must be submitted to both chambers of Congress before the new law’s effectivity on July 19, 2020.

“Iyong crafting ng ating IRR kasi kailangan din ito ng Kongreso--bago tayo makapag-aksyon tungkol diyan ay kailangang guumawa muna tayo ng implementing rules and guidelines na kailangan isumite sa Kongresso dahil magbubuo rin yan ng joint oversight committee,” he said.

Esperon said the passage of the widely opposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is “a matter of necessity” as President Rodrigo Duterte experienced dealing with terrorists in his time as Davao City mayor.

“Itong batas na ito is a matter of necessity, ‘wag nating kakalimutan ‘yang mga nakaraan na mga pangyayari na gawa ng mga terrorista unang-una sa lahat ay nakita niyo naman na ang ating Pangulo ay talagang very firm ‘yung kanyang resolve,” he said.

He added that the President sees the importance of the new anti-terrorism law after he dealt with terrorist groups during his time as Davao City mayor.

“Dahil siya mismo bilang dating mayor ng Davao nakita naman niya na ang kanyang mga constituents ay nabahala rin at naranasan ang karahasan ng terorismo,” Esperon said.

Many Filipinos questioned the signing of the new anti- terrorism law amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Senate approved the measure in February 2020. Duterte certified the measure as urgent on June 1. The House of Representatives approved its version, a copy of the Senate version, on June 3 and later adopted the Senate version as amendment to its version.

Esperon said that the government will not stop the critics of the new anti-terrorism law from questioning its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).

He said the people opposed to the new measure were not able to read its provisions.

“Yung sa pag question nila sa anti-terror law sa SC ay karapatan nila, ‘di natin pipigilan ‘yan. We’ll even encourage them --mayroon akong palayagay na ‘di nila binabasa itong provisions ng anti-terror law, he said.

Esperon cited section Section 4 of the law which says terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.

But the law also criminalizes people who “incite others” to commit terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.”

The new law will also lessen the accountability of the police and military as they are now allowed to detain suspected terrorists without a judicial warrant of arrest up to 24 days.

Under the Human Security Act of 2007, law enforcers who have wrongfully detained suspects can be penalized P500,000 for every day of wrongful detention. (SunStar Philippines)


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