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House okays Anti-Terrorism Bill on second reading

The approval came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the said proposed legislation as urgent “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.”

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a controversial proposed legislation that seeks to replace the Human Security Act of 2007 with a broader measure aims in strengthening the law against terrorism in the country.

Through a viva voce voting, majority of congressmen participated during Tuesday’s hybrid plenary voted in favor of House Bill No. 6875 or the “An Act Defining, Preventing and Penalizing Terrorist Acts.”

The approval came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the said proposed legislation as urgent “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.”

HB 6873 seeks to overhaul the current Human Security Act and defines terrorism as a crime of engaging in acts for the purpose of “instilling fear and seriously destabilizing structures in the country” through causing death and serious bodily harm or injuries to any persons or endangers a person’s life; causing extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility or public place, or private property; and causing extensive interference, damage, or destruction to critical infrastructure.

The proposed law allows wiretapping and other surveillance methods of suspected terrorist for a maximum period of 90 days—60 days initial and extendible for another month.

HB 6873 imposes the penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole for acts of terrorism; planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism; conspiracy to commit terrorism; recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization; and providing material support to terrorism.

Militant congressmen from the Makabayan have slammed the said proposal as it can be used by the government as “worse tool for repression and state terrorism.”

“The Anti-Terror Bill do not even address existing flaws of the current law. Further, it removes safeguards against abuse of human rights and civil liberties,” said House Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also scored Duterte for prioritizng the suppression of sporadic “acts of terrorism” by instituting “draconian measures” than enacting an economic stimulus package granting relief to distressed people and businesses in the wake of the still raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Lagman stressed that Duterte is further tightening the noose on suspected terrorists “at the expense of the protection of human rights and civil liberties like critical dissent and expression of grievances despite the lip service to protect such fundamental rights provided in the repealing measure.”

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