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Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
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By: Rep. Edcel C. Lagman
03 June 2020

Before I explain my negative vote, I would like to ask the House Leadership to explain why I was not allowed to interpellate the sponsors of House Bill No. 6875 despite the fact that I seasonably registered my intention to interpellate and I was assured that I was number three in the list of interpellators. Many more were allowed to interpellate and Section 54 of Rule 10 of the House Rules was not enforced.

When I complained that I was not being called to interpellate, I was told to call the Majority Leader but the Majority Leader did not answer my repeated calls.

If a member of the independent opposition is discriminated against in a parliamentary body, how can we expect the new Anti-Terror Law to be enforced with due respect to human rights and civil liberties of citizens?

I vote an emphatic “No” to this new Anti-Terror Act for the following overriding reasons:

  1. It institutes draconian measures of utmost severity hitherto unknown to penal legislation, like the following:

    1. Authorizing detention without warrant of arrest for a maximum period of 24 days of the suspected terrorist instead of the present three-day maximum. No less than the Constitution in Section 18 of Article VII provides that “[d]uring the suspension of the privilege of the writ (of habeas corpus), any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

      The fundamental law sets the standard of three days even in the severest of circumstances when the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. The 24-day maximum provided for in House Bill No. 6875 is eight times longer than the standard set by the Constitution.

      It is no excuse that other countries prescribe longer periods of detention because we should not follow these other countries who have less democratic history and do not have similar provisions in their constitutions.

    2. Authorizing wiretapping of suspected terrorists for a maximum period of 90 days is a repugnant amendment to the Anti-Wiretapping Law (R.A. 4200). Ninety days is inordinately long to authorize police and military authorities to eavesdrop against privacy when exemption to the Anti-Wiretapping Law must be sparingly made, even if the same is not warranted in the first place;

    3. Authorizing the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) to pry into the bank accounts of suspected terrorist groups and persons without a court order by freezing such accounts for 20 days, which period can be extended to six months by the Court of Appeals. This amendment to the “Law of Secrecy of Bank Deposits” (R.A. No. 1405), is similarly repugnant;

    4. A preliminary order of proscription of alleged terrorist organizations has no terminal duration during the pendency of the proceedings before the Court of Appeals. Even a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Court of Appeals is only effective for 60 days;

    5. Red-tagging of groups or persons is encouraged, facilitated, and legalized; and

    6. The penalties imposed are utterly severe and disproportionate to the lighter offenses provided for in the proposed new Anti-Terror Act.

  2. Safeguards for the protection of human rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Human Security Act of 2007 have been deleted or diluted.

    It is no consolation that Section 4 of House Bill No. 6875 provides that “terrorism as defined in this Section shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights” because this safeguard is mere lip service since it is eroded by the subsequent proviso which reads: “which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.” This dangerous colatilla can always be used by arresting and prosecuting officers to undermine the supposed safeguard.

  3. The bill contains vague and nebulous provisions which are so ambiguous and whose implementation is given to the sole discretion of arresting officers or to the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) or the AMLAC, which are adjuncts of the Executive.