Anti-terror bill to be used vs NPA, says Army chief

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    ARMY chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay yesterday said the proposed anti-terrorism bill, which will effectively repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, will be applied in the fight against the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

    Armed Forces chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said the bill, which is expected to be signed into law soon by President Duterte, “is not targeting any specific organization, group, or individual.”

    “But if anyone of them commits an act or acts which are included in the definition of terrorism, then they will be prosecuted and penalized under the proposed law,” Santos said when asked if the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will be applied to the NPA.

    The military officials’ statements come amid opposition to the proposed law and after the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the NPA and the CPP are not covered by the bill as these groups are yet to be declared as terrorist groups by a court. But if they conduct bombings, he said, and burn government and private properties, “they would be venturing into the realm of terrorism.”

    Gapay said NPA rebels are “no different” from members of terrorist groups that are allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, referring to the Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

    “We have seen how, you know, they have killed innocent civilians, even us in the uniformed (services), the security sector, employing treachery,” said Gapay of the communist rebels.

    Gapay also noted the NPA rebels have resorted to bombings and ambuscades to pursue their cause and extortion activities.

    “They are included because they are well within the definition of what terrorism means, who terrorists are, in this new anti terror bill,” said Gapay.

    Gapay said the bill would enable the military to end communist insurgent and enable government troops to “cut the umbilical cord” or finance and logistics support of the NPA from some sectors,

    “Who doesn’t want this communist insurgency to end because it has beset our country for so long and it has taken its toll on our economy. I think most of us would really want to permanently end this insurgency problem,” said Gapay.

    To NPA sympathizers, Gapay said they need not worry about the bill as long as they are not supporting the NPA in terms of finance and logistics.

    “They could express themselves as long as you don’t espouse armed violation to further their objectives … They are protected also, civil rights are protected in the new anti-terror bill, so they don’t need to worry about that,” said Gapay.

    CLOSE STUDY

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said public interest in the bill “will make the President study its provisions even more closely” before he decides on whether to sign it into law, let it lapse into law, or veto it.

    Opposition and militant groups say the measure would erode human rights and violate basic rights. Among questioned provisions are those on detention of suspected terrorists for 14 days without a warrant of arrest with a 10-day extension; conduct of a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists with a 30-day extension; and imprisonment of 12 years for those who violate the law.

    Roque reiterated the enrolled copy has reached Malacañang and its provisions would be scrutinized carefully.

    Asked if there is a chance the President would just let the bill lapse into law, Roque said “the President did certify it as urgent, so he agrees with the principal author of the bill, Sen. Ping Lacson, that there is a need for the law.”

    “But let’s just say that the public interest on the bill will make the President review the provisions of the bill even more closer,” he added.

    Roque reiterated the Department of Justice has been asked to review the provisions of the bill following concerns raised by some groups that it contained unconstitutional provisions. – With Jocelyn Montemayor