Citing questionable provisions of the proposed anti-terrorism bill that would have benefited from more exhaustive deliberations in the House, Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. on Wednesday cast his vote against House Bill Number 6875, a measure the lawmaker said was simply a carbon copy of its Senate counterpart.

“I vote NO to Senate Bill (SB) No. 1083. Eh kasi naman, yung ating HB 6875 ay kinopya ng buong-buo yung SB 1083. The House of Representatives… simply adopted the Senate version of the Anti-Terror Bill and did not even see it fit to deliberate and formulate its own version,” lamented the solon.

“Nawalang saysay ang check and balance, na syang dahilan kung bakit may dalawang kapulungan ang ating lehislatura.”

“We in the Minority take exception to the speed in which we are being asked to deliberate on and pass this piece of legislation.”

The legislator from Manila raised several issues regarding the measure, such as Section 29, which would allow the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) to order the arrest of people suspected of committing any of the acts punished by the bill.

“Under our Constitution, warrants of arrest can only be issued by the courts,” stressed Abante.

Section 25 of this bill, Abante explained, would also empower the ATC to “designate” people or groups which it deems to be involved in terror acts. Groups or individuals designated would be subject to sanctions by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), such as freezing of assets without notice or hearing.  

Abante pointed out that under the Constitution, “no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

According to Abante, a dangerous provision of the measure is Section 9, which introduces a new crime, inciting to terrorism, which is defined as “any person who, without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution of any of the acts specified in Section 4 hereof by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.” 

“Let us keep our priorities straight. Our focus now should be on testing, not terrorism.” 

“Ibig sabihin nito, lahat ng kritiko ng gobyerno at mga may hinaing laban sa gobyerno ay puede ng ipa-aresto. Under this bill, anyone suspected of being a terrorist can be detained without a warrant for up to 24 days.  Kahit sino sa atin ay maaaring ipa-aresto at makulong ng 24 days ng walang anumang kasong isinasampa sa hukuman,” warned the House leader.

Abante had earlier said in a press briefing that “we cannot deny that terrorism is a constant, clear, and present danger that threatens national security and the safety of our people.” 

“We do not question the need to come up with measures that will help prevent acts of terror. But what we in the Minority take exception to is the speed and dispatch in which we are being asked to deliberate on and pass this piece of legislation.”

The legislator said that the numerous issues and questions that need to be clarified regarding the bill are the rationale behind House Resolution 944, which the Minority filed to urge the House “to give all the members of the House sufficient time to study this Bill before calendaring it on Second Reading.”

“We already have existing measures to address the threats posed by terrorism, and right now we are in the middle of a pandemic that continues to pose a threat to the lives of our people. Let us keep our priorities straight. Our focus now should be on testing, not terrorism.” 

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