Following a suicide bombing incident that involved a Filipino militant, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atletang (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said he has filed a bill that would toughen the country’s anti-terrorism law to prevent similar attacks happening in the future.
House Bill No. 2082 seeks to amend Republic Act 9272, or the Human Securities Act of 2007, to “make it rational, balanced, realistic and truly effective in the fight against terrorism.”
In filing the proposed measure, Nograles noted that the passage of the HSA in 2007 was intended to provide a legal framework that would allow Philippine’s criminal justice system and institutions to prevent and counter-terrorism.
“Unfortunately, 12 years after its passage, the HSA has provided little to nil contribution in the fight against terrorism. To this date, there have only been two cases where the HSA has been applied. First was in the 2008 case of Jun Guevarra where the accused plea-bargained, and in the proscription of the Abu Sayyaf Group as a terrorist organization in 2015,” the legislator said.
“The vagueness of the definition of the crime of terrorism, the almost absurd provisions for awards of damages, and the unreasonably restrictive measures which negate the very intent of the HSA are but a few of the reasons raised why the law has become inutile,” the lawmaker added.
He said the incident last June 28 where a Filipino, Norman Lasuca, was identified as one of the two suicide bombers who attacked an Army command post in Indanan, Sulu is one reason why the RA 9272 needs to be amended.
“The involvement of a Filipino in a suicide bombing completely changes everything.”
Nograles said the involvement of a Filipino in a suicide bombing completely changes everything that the authorities know about terrorism in the Philippines.
“It is a grim indication that foreign terrorists have already spread their violent ideology to local Islamic insurgents. This unprecedented attack could just be the beginning of more similar attacks and the government needs to step up efforts to fight this kind of terrorism,” he said.
“It thus becomes more critical that we rationalize and update our primary legal tool against terrorism. Government tactics to fight terrorism has to keep up with the changing times and should address the gaps, lapses, and inadequacies of the Human Security Act of 2007,” Nograles added.
If passed into law, he said HB 2082 will provide a clearer definition of key concepts, including what “terrorist acts” are punishable; allow for a graduation of penalties based on an offender’s participation; penalize “inciting to commit terrorist acts”; and define and penalize “foreign terrorism” and “foreign terrorist.
“Government should address the gaps, lapses, and inadequacies of the Human Security Act of 2007.”
The proposed measure also provides greater powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), especially over telecommunications and internet service providers; and empowers the ATC to take measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
As provided, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Education (DepEd) shall be included in the ATC.
HB 2082 also mandates the creation of focus programs on countering violent extremism, counter-terrorism operational readiness, legal affairs, anti-terror financing, and international affairs.
The bill also has several provisions that are aimed at preventing abuses in the implementation of the measure.
These include imposing stricter rules on surveillance information disclosure and emphasizing the need for documentation of the chain of possession and custody over surveillance tapes, discs, and recordings, among others.
HB 2082 also mandates the ATC to motu propio investigate reports of abuse, malicious application and improper implementation of the law.