Duterte ‘inclined’ to sign anti-terror bill into law — PH Palace

MANILA, June 16 (Mabuhay) — Despite opposition from various sectors, President Rodrigo Duterte is “inclined” to sign the anti-terrorism bill, Malacañang said Tuesday.

“I think he is inclined to sign it,” Roque said.

The anti-terrorism bill, which seeks to replace the Human Security Act, the country’s existing law against terrorism, is being reviewed by Malacañang after it was passed by Congress amid concerns on some of its provisions.

Critics have said that the proposed law may empower the government to go after legitimate dissent. They have also warned against the up-to 24-day warrantless detention period for suspected terrorists, and the alleged authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council, a body created under the law, to authorize in writing the arrest of terrorism suspects.

In addition, the bill removes the existing P500,000 a day penalty on police officers who will detain suspects eventually acquitted of the crime.

At present, Roque said Duterte is “taking a final look” at the bill, which is principally authored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The bill is currently being reviewed by the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Roque said.

The Commission on Human Rights, a government entity, earlier said that the bill will allow authorities to tag exercise of rights as an act of terrorism with no accountability.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said he is confident President Rodrigo Duterte will consider his department’s comments before acting on the anti-terrorism bill.

Having finished its brainstorming session on Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will send its comments to the Office of the President on Wednesday, Guevarra said.

“I am confident that the President will wait for and consider not only the comments of the DOJ but also those of other government agencies whose comments were requested by the Office of the Executive Secretary,” he said in a message to reporters.

International lawyers’ groups have asked the DOJ to reject the bill and rights watchdog Karapatan on Tuesday urged the department to recommend a veto of the proposed law over human rights concerns.

Guevarra said its communication to the Office of the President will be “highly confidential, just like our comments pertaining to other enrolled bills.”

He said he will leave it to the Office of the Executive Secretary to decide whether to disclose to the public the basis of Duterte’s action on the bill.

The anti-terrorism bill, which seeks to replace the Human Security Act of 2007, hurdled both chambers of Congress amid concerns that it could be used by the government to go after activists.

Critics have also pointed out that it may violate the Constitution due to its provisions allowing for the warrantless detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days and the supposed power of the Anti-Terrorism Council, a body to be created by the law, to authorize arrests.

Lacson, who authored the bill at the Senate, has denied that the council will have this power.

For his part, PBA party-list Representative Jericho Nograles has said the proposed law is not against activists and only targets terrorists and violent extremists. (MNS)

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