Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday warned abuses committed by law enforcers in the implementation of the government’s illegal drugs campaign might be repeated in the war against terrorism if the proposed new Anti-Terror Act of 2020 is signed into law in the form it was recently approved by the Senate on third and final reading.
In an interview over dzRH, Pangilinan said two provisions of the proposed measure opens it up to possible abuses – the clause allowing the state to tag a group or organization as a terrorist group, and the provision that extended to 24 days the number of days that a suspected terrorist or a member of the suspected terror group can be detained without any charges.
Pangilinan said the provision that gives law enforcers the authority to tag an organization as a terrorist group and subject its members to surveillance could be abused to silence or suppress legitimate grievances against the government.
He noted the experience of opposition leaders who belong to the Liberal Party, who have been accused of supposedly leading destabilization moves against President Duterte, including the alleged Red October plot that even dragged Vice President Leni Robredo as the purported mastermind.
The senator noted that on the basis of mere suspicions and without any valid evidence to back the allegations, Robredo and other top leaders of the Liberal Party were accused of sedition and investigated by the Department of Justice.
Pangilinan said that under the new measure, groups critical of the administration could be wrongfully accused of being terrorist groups and their members harassed by law enforcers.
On the provision allowing the extended detention of suspected terrorists sans the filing of criminal charges, Pangilinan said this violates the Bill of Rights.
“Ngayon ito ay wala nang judicial intervention for a period of 24 days. Of course, the law says they have to notify the judge immediately after detention, but again, malaking talon, and for 24 days of detention (Under the measure, there will be no judicial intervention for a period of 24 days. Of course, the law says they have to notify the judge immediately after the detention, but again, that’s a big leap, and for 24 days of detention),” he said, pointing out that the existing Human Security Act allows only up to three days of detention without filing of charges.
He noted that the detention of suspected terrorist only requires a written authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council and does not require a court order.
Pangilinan said that during the onset of the war on drugs, law enforcers committed a lot of abuses when suspected drug users and pushers were instantly killed on the pretext that they violently resisted arrest.
A classic example of this was the case of 17-year-old high school student Kian delos Santos who was killed in cold blood by overeager cops in Caloocan City. The Caloocan Regional Trial Court has found the three cops involved guilty of murder.
“Buhay na ang kapalit kaya tayo ay nangangamba na iyong pang –aabuso dito sa war on drugs ay baka malipat sa war on terrorism (Lives were lost, that’s why we fear that the abuses in the war on drugs would be committed in the war on terrorism),” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan clarified he was not against strengthening of the Human Security Act but said the proposed anti-terror measure involves extreme solutions.
“Hindi naman dapat maging extreme din ang solusyon, ika nga. At nakikita natin na malaki ang tsansa na magkaroon ng pang –aabuso dito sa mga ilang probisyon ng ating terrorism law (The problem should not involve extreme solutions, so to speak. And we see that there is big chance that the two provisions of the measure will be abused),” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has said that Congress needs to come up with a new measure to deal with external and internal terrorism.
“There is an urgent need for lawmakers to update the existing anti-terror law to give the military ad defense agencies more teeth in addressing the growing threat of terrorism in the country, especially in Mindanao,” said Sotto, principal author of the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Senate committee on national defense chair, said the measure underwent rigorous interpellation from his colleagues and contains safeguards against possible abuse.
Pangilinan said there were talks for his proposed amendments during the plenary deliberations but he knew that they would not be adopted.
“And ultimately pagnagka-botohan naman hindi rin naman makakakuha ng boto. Sabi ko this may affect my vote (And ultimately I know that my proposed amendments will not gather enough votes so I just said that this may affect my vote),” Pangilinan said.