Hontiveros to Palace: Why prioritize anti-terror bill over pandemic?

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Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday questioned the Congress and the Malacañang Palace on why the Anti-Terror bill was certified urgent over COVID-19 response. 

“COVID-19 ang kalaban, pero itong Anti-Terrorism Bill ang isinalang,” Hontiveros told reporters in a text message.

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(COVID-19 is our enemy, but the Anti-Terrorism Bill was tackled first.)

President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent the anti-terror bill that would authorize law enforcers to detain suspected terrorists for up to 14 days.

The House started the deliberation on the said bill this week before it goes on a two-month break. The Senate meanwhile passed the Anti-Terror bill on final reading in February before the coronavirus outbreak started in the country. 

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“Valid at dapat pakinggan ang concerns ng publiko tungkol sa (anti-terror) bill. Ang hiling nila ay maayos na programa para sa kanilang kaligtasan laban sa kinakaharap nating pandemic. Hindi ba dapat nandoon ang prayoridad natin?” Hontiveros said.

(The public’s concerns on the bill is valid and should be heard. They only ask for a proper program to ensure their safety during the pandemic. Shouldn’t that be our priority?)

“Alam natin na kapag hindi benevolent, kung ‘di despotic yung implementors, may mga human rights violations na maaring mangyari,” Hontiveros earlier told ANC’s Headstart.

(We know that if it is not benevolent and if the implementors are not despotic, some human rights violations can occur.)

Also read: Suspected NPA rebels abduct 3 peacebuilders in Samar

Defending anti-terror bill

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson defended the bill, saying there are enough safeguards to avoid abuse. 

Law enforcement agencies are mandated to inform a court and the Commission on Human Rights whenever a warrantless arrest is made, the bill’s Senate version stated. An arrested suspect could be detained for 14 to 24 days. 

Any official who would be found guilty of violating the rights of a suspected terrorist would face 10 years imprisonment. 

“The concerns being raised by the progressive and leftist groups as well as human rights advocates have been adequately addressed during the Committee on National Defense and Security public hearings, as well as the debates and interpellations in plenary,” Lacson, who sponsored the Senate version, said in a statement.

“I suggest they read the bill first before reacting. Terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.

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