By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Thursday gave the assurance that the proposed anti-terrorism law has sufficient safeguards to ensure it won’t be used against members of the opposition.
Lacson said the proposed new anti-terrorism law that the Senate approved on third and final reading on Wednesday upholds freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, among other rights.
“It’s clear in the proposed law that activities in line with the exercise of legitimate dissent are not included in its provisions,” Lacson said at a Kapihan sa Senado forum on Thursday.
“We defined the acts of terrorism in such a way the intent and purpose is clear and that it is within the context of violation, terrorism.”
Lacson, who heads the Senate committee on national defense and security and is sponsor of the measure, said he understands the concerns aired by opposition senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros who voted against the measure.
Both senators expressed fear that the measure, once passed into law, would be used against members of the opposition, especially those who are vocally critical of the present Duterte administration.
But Lacson said the proposed law has introduced certain mechanisms to make sure that the conduct of electronic surveillance or other forms of surveillance will not be easily carried out against any individual or known members of the opposition, especially if it does not follow the proper legal procedures.
“We have to follow legal procedures. You cannot just conduct electronic surveillance or whatever kind of surveillance if you didn’t get the permission from the courts,” he said.
“In fact, Senator (Franklin) Drilon did not just [seek] the intervention from the regional trial courts (RTC), we elevated the process of obtaining judicial authorization to conduct surveillance to the Court of Appeals (CA),” he pointed out.
Lacson also said the panel decided to increase the reglamentary period from 36 hours to 14 working days.
“It is because this (terrorism) is no ordinary crime against persons or property but crime against humanity. And its impact on the destruction of lives and property is so massive and so indiscriminate,” he pointed out.
“We are just trying to be at par with other countries especially our neighboring countries. Singapore has a reglamentary period of 732 days; it can also be extended indefinitely…We are one of those who have a lower reglamentary period, 14 days period to detain without warrant,” he explained.
Once Senate Bill No. 1083 is passed into law, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will effectively repeal the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, which Lacson said “was literally a dead-letter law.”
Lacson said this is why, under the proposed new anti-terrorism law, they removed the provision that requires the payment of P500,000 compensation for those wrongfully detained.
“That is the reason why the police, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are hesitant to file charges using the HSA because they are afraid that once the cases are dismissed, they will be penalized with P500,000 per day of detention,” he said.
Lacson said that under the proposed law, nothing will prevent those wrongfully arrested from seeking compensation once they are wrongfully accused of the crime under this anti-terrorism measure.
“That is in the Civil Code…that is well within their rights to seek compensation or even exact criminal liabilities from those who wrongfully arrested and detained them,” he said.
Lacson said he is confident the House of Representatives will expedite the passage of the counterpart measure so they can submit their version to the Senate as soon as possible.