by Charissa M. Luci
Former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is seeking special powers for President Duterte to fight illegal drugs and terrorism, which include the suspension of the Bank Secrecy, Anti-Wiretapping and Data Privacy Laws.
The former Chief Executive filed House Bill 3684 which seeks to declare a national emergency against drugs and terrorism.
“The Philippines is currently suffering from a national emergency, involving drugs, terrorism, and lawlessness, which threatens the very life of the nation and our people,” she said.
Under the bill, Arroyo seeks the establishment of a national policy that would authorize the President, in accordance with the Constitution, to exercise necessary and proper powers to address such emergency “for a limited period.”
HB 3684 has been referred to the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers.
“This bill seeks to protect civil liberties and promote checks and balances, under Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the Constitution, while ensuring the apprehension of big-time drug lords and terrorists to protect our people from lawless elements which have crippled the country,” Arroyo said in her bill’s explanatory note.
“To address the national emergency, the principle of salus populi est suprema lex (The welfare of the people if the supreme law) is invoked,” she said.
She assured that under her bill, police or military which are called out to enforce the emergency powers will be administratively charged and prosecuted if they abuse their authority and commit human rights abuses.
“A system of checks and balances shall be in place, inviting the participation of all branches of government.”
THE POWERS UNDER THE LAW
Under HB 3684, the President shall be granted the following powers: to inquire into or examine records, logbooks, and registers in cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism with any person, whether natural or juridical, without a court order, notwithstanding Republic Act No. 10173, otherwise known as the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
He will also the power to inquire into or examine deposits and investments in cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution and their subsidiaries and affiliates without a court order, notwithstanding RA 1405, otherwise known as the Law on Secrecy of Bank Deposits.
In addition, the President will also be authorized to issue orders to freeze without delay property or funds that are in any way related to cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism during the pendency of such cases and to issue orders to suspend the application of RA 4200, otherwise known as the Anti-Wiretapping Law,in cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism for national security and public safety, among others.
The President is also authorized to train law enforcement personnel, reorganize, abolish or create offices; split group or merge positions; transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel, according to the bill.
Arroyo also seeks the appointment of special prosecutors from the National Prosecution Service whose office will be open 24 hours, including weekends and holidays to receive complaints, conduct preliminary investigation, and file information in cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism.
She said special defense counsels from the Public Attorney’s Office shall also be appointed to advise, represent and defend those accused in cases involving illegal drugs and terrorism.
Under HB 3684, Arroyo also bats for the construction of separate and isolated maximum security prison or detention facilities for high risk terrorists and drug lords.
During a national emergency, minors below 18 years old shall be required to have a curfew between 11 p.m. up to 4 a.m. for their protection, except minors who are accompanied by a parent or guardian or adult relative within the fourth civil degree of affinity.
Arroyo said the declared national emergency against terrorism and illegal drugs, including the powers granted to the President shall be valid and effective for a period of 180 days only from the effectivity of this Act, unless sooner withdrawn by a joint resolution of Congress.
To monitor the implementation of the proposed Act and exercise of the powers granted, a six-man Congressional Oversight Committee shall be constituted.
“Detention is better than killings, because life is precious. But, drug lords and terrorists must go to jail and be penalized to serve the ends of justice and protect the people from lawless elements,” Arroyo said.
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