Anti-Terrorism Act safeguards rights - Lacson

The Anti-Terrorism Act’s main proponent in the Senate defends the bill from criticisms concerning possible violation of civil liberties and human rights.

Senator Panfilo Lacson guaranteed that the Anti-Terrorism Act will not be easily abused by law enforcement agencies in last week’s Kapihan sa Senado press gathering.

In his interview, the senator emphasized that the passage of Senate Bill No. 1083 will help the country strengthen its policies against the flow of terrorism, which is evident in nearby countries in the region.

“This underwent a series of consultations from resource persons, from different groups like CHR,” said Lacson who also emphasized that the process of getting judicial authorization to conduct surveillance was raised from the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) to the Court of Appeals (CA).

To guard against potential violations of certain rights, the senator stressed the measure has added stricter penalties for authorities that would abuse their powers under the law. Lacson also added that the proposed measure has provisions that will uphold civil liberties, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“(Ang pag-uphold ng) freedom of expression naroon, ang freedom of assembly naroon. Napakaklaro sa batas na hindi kasama ang activities na in the exercise of legitimate dissent. Hindi kasama yan doon. Dinefine namin ang acts of terrorism in such a way maliwanag ang intent and purpose naroon within the context of violation, terrorism,” he said.

Voting 19-2, the Senate approved the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Senate Bill No. 1083) on third and final reading last 26 February 2020. The bill seeks to provide law enforcement authorities the legal framework to defend the country from terrorist organizations and defend suspects of such crimes via safety nets. The bill has been controversial on some fronts because it allows terror suspects to be detained without a warrant for 14 days, extendable for another 10 days. If passed into law, the said measure would repeal the Human Security Act of 2007. 

As the main sponsor of the bill, Lacson has ensured that legal processes will be followed in conducting surveillances and would respect the jurisdiction of the courts.

“Lahat naman may legal procedures na susundin. Hindi naman pwedeng basta mag-conduct ng electronic surveillance or whatever kind of surveillance kung di ka kukuha ng permiso sa korte,” he said.

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