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Desperate Duterte-backed Congress erroneously tags minority solon as co-author of Anti-Terror Bill

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All of us have heard that in an incredibly brief span of time, policymakers passed House Bill No. 6875, better known as the Anti-Terror Bill. Two days ago, the name of Agusan del Norte Representative Lawrence Fortun came up in news articles as having withdrawn as co-author of the Bill. We all remember Congressman Fortun as the lone House Committee on Justice member who rejected the proposal to reduce the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old, questioned Mocha Uson’s designation at the OWWA, and stood by Commissioner Gascon amidst proposals to reduce the CHR budget to P1000. He also rejected the controversial bill that sought to revive the death penalty, was one of only four who voted to allow CJ Serreno’s counsels to cross examine complainants and witnesses against the CJSereno AND rallied behind the Office of the Ombudsman at the height of its probe into the alleged wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.

Now, the question is, why would Congressman Fortun co-author the Anti-Terror Bill then withdraws from it?In a series of tweets, Congressman Fortun clarified that, in the first place, he was never a co-author of the Anti-Terror Bill. See below the explanation that Congressman Fortun made in a series of tweets:

Congresman Fortun’s explanation is also on his Facebook page, and recorded statement at

He voted NO for the Bill

Congressman Fortun was able to correct the mistake: he did not withdraw from authorship, but had his name removed, which House staff MISTAKENLY INCLUDED but has now removed. This raises procedural concerns about inclusion in the authorship of bills: as of this writing, at least THREE other lawmakers insist that they are not co-authors of the bill but identified by Congress as authors, and who waited until the third reading to complain, unlike Congressman Fortun. These are Loren Legarda, Vilma Santos, and Iloilo Representative Jam Baronda.

Is Congress in so much of a rush to pass the Anti-Terror Bill that they include supposed authors that are not, after all, co-authors and who have not given their consent? At the height of COVID-19 when government failures continue unabatedly, Congress is rushing this Anti-Terror Bill??? Note that dissenting lawmakers to the Bill WERE ALSO MUTED DURING THE THIRD READING. Such glaring show of desperation for the Duterte backed lawmakers to heed Duterte’s request to rectify the passage of the bill.

Hence, we must ask. What is this Anti Terror Bill all about in the first place? Why we should be afraid of it? What will this mean in PH present human-rights situation?

The Anti Terror Bill defines “terrorism” as the commission of certain violent acts in order to intimidate the public, spread a message of fear, destabilize society, create an emergency or undermine public safety. It also stated that one of the purposes of terrorism is to “provoke or influence by intimidation the government” or “any of its international organizations.”

A person suspected of violating the proposed Anti-Terrorist Act may be detained for as long as 24 days without being informed of the specific charges.

The Anti-Terrorism Law allows law enforcers to arrest suspects on the basis not of a judicial warrant, but a mere authorization from the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which is composed of several Cabinet secretaries and security officials. Notably, these people are part of the executive branch of government and are not independent in theory like judges.

Normally, under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, a detainee must be “deliver(ed) to the proper judicial authorities” within 12 to 36 hours, depending on the severity of the offense. Section 18 of the HSA allows law enforcers to arrest suspects without any judicial warrant and gives them three days counted from the moment of apprehension, arrest or custody without judicial warrant.

Now, the bill proposes to extend the current three-day period almost fivefold to 14 calendar days. The period of detention may be extended for yet another 10 days maximum, if it is established that further detention is necessary to preserve evidence and prevent the commission of “another” terrorist act.

What could be worst? The police could now either torture or subject suspected individuals to cruel treatment under its custody since the bill deleted the current requirement for officers to present an arrested suspect to a judge, for assessment of whether the suspect has been subjected to physical, moral or psychological torture.

The broad definition of ”terrorism” covers people who simply express their opinions or redress for grievances against the government even in social-media platforms. It creates a legal machinery to lynch dissenters and political opponents under the guise of an anti-terrorism law.

It basically snatches away one of the most important pillars of a properly functioning democracy. Without ”free-speech” we can never be considered ”free”.

The said measure only empowers the police to commit even graver atrocities whilst protecting the political elites as if they’re their own private army. It would only worsen the current human-rights situation in the country and would forever taint our reputation and deep International humiliation for once been a proud bastion of freedom-loving people who peacefully brought down a tyrant.

 

 

 

 

 

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