House approves anti-terror bill on 3rd reading

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

June 3, 2020, 6:26 pm

MANILA – A bill providing more teeth to the law against terrorism and effectively repealing the Human Security Act of 2007 is a step closer into becoming a law, after the House of Representatives approved it on third and final reading on Wednesday.

With 173 affirmative votes, 31 negative votes, and 29 abstentions, the lower chamber passed House Bill 6875, or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which seeks to prevent, prohibit, and penalize terrorism.

The bill's third reading approval came a day after it was approved on second reading. Congress dispenses with the three-day rule for measures certified by President Rodrigo Duterte as urgent.

Duterte called for the immediate passage of the bill “to address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”

The House bill is similar to the Senate version that was approved in February to fast-track its approval and avoid convening a bicameral conference.

The bill introduced provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; possess objects connected with the preparation for the commission of terrorism; or collect or make documents connected with the preparation of terrorism.

Under the bill, any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.

Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall suffer imprisonment of 12 years.

Meanwhile, those who shall recruit another to join, commit, or support any terrorist organization shall be punished with a penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole.

The measure not only establishes Philippine jurisdiction over Filipinos who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines but also ensures that foreign terrorists do not use the country as a transit point, a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.

Under the bill, the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.

A new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts as Anti-Terror Courts, was also introduced to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

The use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify will also be allowed under the measure.

The amendments also provide for the police or the military to conduct 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals.

To allay concerns of possible excesses by the authorities, the Commission on Human Rights shall be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist. (PNA)