The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill is not anti-human rights and, in fact, seeks to protect the rights of innocent people from terrorists, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Contrary to the claims of critics, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said that the Anti-Terrorism Bill seeks to finally stamp out terrorism in the country. "The Anti-Terrorism Bill aims to eradicate terrorism from our country. The people have nothing to fear from this bill; it is only the terrorists and their supporters who should fear it," he said.
"This bill is a bold and timely upgrade in our arsenal against all forms of terrorism, whether the Communist-terrorists or the violent extremists that have been plaguing our country for so many years. The Marawi siege by the Maute group and other ISIS-inspired groups as well as the attacks by Communist terrorists on civilians pose a continuing clear and present danger to the lives of our countrymen," he said.
The DILG Chief clarified that “The Anti-Terrorism Bill was conceived not to trample and violate human rights. The insinuation that Congress will enact a law to directly disregard the Filipinos’ human rights is preposterous. Ang batas na ito ay para sa pagpapanatili ng kaligtasan ng mga mamamayan, at pagdurog sa terorismo na matagal ng problema ng ating bansa,” he said.
“Bilang pangunahing ahensya ng pamahalaan na nakakakita ng problemang dala ng mga teroristang ito sa mga pamahalaang lokal, we thank Congress for its passage and enactment into law,” he added.
He assured the public that the bill will only work to quell terrorism in the country. “Ang terorismo ay threat na nangyayari hindi lamang sa Pilipinas kundi sa buong mundo at ito po ay para sa kaligtasan ng lahat at pinag-isipang mabuti at sinisigurado po nating walang pang-aabusong mangyayari.”
The Anti-Terrorism Bill, which was initially approved by the Senate last February 2020, is one step away from being approved by the House of Representatives. President Rodrigo Duterte has recently certified the bill as ‘urgent’. The bill seeks to amend and improve the provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007. Año said the said current law “is outdated, has been ineffective, and out touch with the realities on the ground”.
Setting the record straight
The DILG Chief explained that over the years, the current law had made it difficult for them to conduct anti-terror operations. But the safeguards against torture and other illegal acts are still maintained in the anti-terrorism bill.
Año refuted the claim that the said bill will lead to abuse on the part of law enforcement. On the contrary, he explains that the bill strengthens the power of law enforcers to protect the people from the threat of terrorism while safeguarding the rights of those accused of the crime.
He said that the bill provides for 10-year imprisonment to any law enforcement agent who will violate the rights of persons under custody. “Mapaparusahan po ang sinumang lumabag sa karapatang-pantao ng mga masasakdal na mga terorista, tinitiyak din po iyan ng Anti-Terrorism Bill.”
The DILG chief explained that only those who will propose, incite, conspire, and participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act, provide material support, and recruit anyone to be a member or a terrorist organization, among others, are the ones who are penalized under the bill.
The DILG Chief also refuted the claims that the bill will restrict the rights of people to express their views against the government. “Bilang mga taong gobyerno, sanay po kami diyan, in fact we welcome them dahil ito naman po ang esensya ng isang demokratikong pamahalaan. Wala pong ganyan kahit saan man sa bill na ito.”
He said that the bill itself provides that “terrorism shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”