MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday said the new anti-terrorism bill certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte will preserve the country's sovereignty and promote peace.
"The intention of the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 is to preserve our sovereignty, promote peace, and ensure the safety of our people. Once the bill is passed into law, our government will become more capable and more earnest in seeking out individuals and groups that threaten our peaceful way of life, and put them all to justice," said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency.
He added that the proposed law has more teeth to curb terror threats and acts and adequate measures to prevent abuse.
“We witnessed how acts of terrorism cultivated oppression and birthed injustices throughout the archipelago. We saw how it caused indefinite delays in the development of infrastructures that should have stimulated the local economy, and disrupted programs which were intended to provide for the basic needs of peace-loving Filipinos,” he said.
He assured that the proposed measure "will never be a threat to our human rights" and would only address the problem of terrorism.
Año, meanwhile, slammed some groups for propagating twisted and negative perceptions about the bill to entice public disapproval.
"Allow me to assure all of you now, that there is not a single article or section in this bill that diminishes the constitutionally-granted right to free speech and expression, or the right to a free press," Año said.
He said the current version of this bill is a product of countless deliberations and thorough study to ensure that the Filipino people will be able to "sleep soundly at night" and that the country will be protected and preserved.
“Thus, the passage of this law will strengthen the foundations of a more peaceful and progressive Philippines, not only for us but the future generations as well,” he said.
In February, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1038 or proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on third and final reading.
Two committees at the House of Representatives approved their version of the measure, which is similar to the Senate version on May 29. The chamber passed the measure on second reading on Tuesday.
Under the bill, persons who voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall suffer imprisonment of 12 years.
Suspected persons can be detained for 14 days without a warrant of arrest with an allowable 10-day extension.
A 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists can also be conducted by the police or the military, with an allowable 30-day extension.
The use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses will also be allowed under the measure.
To allay concerns of abuse, the Commission on Human Rights will be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist. (PNA)