Sunday, June 28, 2020

Present terrorism law can’t protect Filipinos - ATB co-author

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 28, 2020): Present terrorism law can’t protect Filipinos - ATB co-author (By Frances Mae Macapagat)

DAVAO CITY, June 26 (PIA) – Davao de Oro 2nd district representative and one of the authors of the Anti Terrorism Bill Congressman Ruwel Peter Gonzaga emphasized that it’s about time Filipinos should be protected from terrorism by ensuring provisions are included in the Anti Terrorism Bill of 2020.

“ Daghan kulang sa Human Security Act of 2007, ang balaod nga aduna kita karon. Ang balaod kinahanglan mag-evolve para mahaum sa present situation. (The Human Security Act of 2007 which we currently have right now lacks provisions that could protect Filipinos. The law needs to evolve also to fit and address the concerns of the present situation.),” Gonzaga said.

Guesting at the One Davao Virtual Presser, the Davao de Oro house representative cited that Philippines has become the comfort zone of foreign terrorists as our laws prohibit the arrest and detention of a foreigner if the crime is not committed in the Philippines.

The ATB 2020 primer specifically cited that the bill acknowledges the extraterritorial nature of the crime of terrorism with the inclusion of the phrase “in or outside the Philippines.”

Terrorism is a global threat that requires extending the long arm of the law to be effective. The ATB gives the Philippines the jurisdiction over terrorists who travel to the country to launch terror acts or propagate violence.

In the primer, “the ATB provides deterrence to foreign terrorists from seeking safe haven in the country unlike the Human Security Act which lacks power to vest jurisdiction in the courts when a foreign terrorist commits a terrorist abroad and absconds into the Philippines, for as long as he or she does nothing illegal here.

Gonzaga also highlighted that extending the detention period from 3 days to 14 days in the ATB would protect the Filipinos as the 14-day period is necessary to gather evidence against terrorist groups. If the 14 days is not enough, another extension of 10 days may be allowed making the detention period a maximum of 24 days.

He explained that much longer period is needed to coordinate with other jurisdictions and necessary to effectively abate terrorism.

“Sa balaod nato karon, walay ngipon ang atong mga awtoridad kay kung mahuman ang 3 days of detention, kinahanglan na nila mabuhian ang suspect kung walay kaso nga mapasaka sa iyaha. (With our present laws, our authorities are forced to release suspects after three days of detention when no case is filed against that person.),” he explained.

The bill’s co-author also debunked claims that this law may be abused by the authorities especially against the critics of the present administration.

“Terrorism has its own definition in this bill. If I am critical to the government, I go out and rally, protest, and express dissent, will I be called a terrorist? Definitely NO. The section 4 in this bill clearly defines who can be called terrorist,” Gonzaga said.

Under Section 4 of the ATB, terrorism is defined as engaging in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person; cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility; develop, manufacture, possess, acquire transport, or use explosives; or release of dangerous substances.

Gonzaga appreciated President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte for giving importance and urgency in having this terrorism law. He said building and crafting this bill took time and was debated by many legislators.

To have this approved by the President, he said, would be the best way to protect Filipinos from terrorism. (PIA XI/Frances Mae Macapagat)

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