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POSITION PAPER ON THE NEW ANTI-TERRORISM BILL

Bryan San Juan

A few weeks ago, the Office of the President certified as urgent the House Bill 6875
which seeks to replace and repeal Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007. HB
6875 is the counterpart bill of Senate Bill 1083, but the said House Bill adopted the Senate
version of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which is already submitted to the President
for the passing of the said bill into law. Since then, the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is
bombarded with criticisms and controversies.

However, despite the criticisms laid down by ordinary citizen and famous and powerful
personalities alike in opposing the proposed law, as a member of the community and a law
student, I’m in favor of the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 for three reasons.

First, this is the right time to abrogate the old law and pass a new one. Through the
years the Philippines had faced and continually facing serious security challenges on multiple
fronts. Attacks and intimidation coming from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Maute group, the
pro-IS Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF), New People’s Army (NPA), National Democratic
Front, and the other possible external attacks from extremist networks like the ISIS and Jemaah
Islamiyah. It is crucial for the government to effectively respond not only to the challenges
posed by the COVID-19 virus but also to the threats of terrorism in the country which the
Human Security Act failed to prevent and by passing a law that is would tackle the multiple
facets of terrorism and would impose restriction, not to the government, but against the
terrorist groups.

Second, the restrictive nature of the 2007 Human Security Act (R.A. 9372). Under R.A.
9372, security forces are required to pay as much as 500,000 Philippine pesos per day in
damages to wrongfully detained suspects, it also limited the apprehension and interrogation of
a terrorist suspect based on preliminary intelligence to only three days. The proposed
legislation eliminates the heavy financial penalties for wrongful detention, extends preventive
detention to at least 14 days and allow counterterrorism agents to conduct up to 60-day
surveillance of suspects. The abovementioned provisions of R.A. 9372, which is a safeguard
from abuse of human rights, also serves as a barrier for the law enforcers to eliminate and
prevent acts of terrorism making the law “toothless”.

Third, in every legislations and measures there would always be an opposition. To


make myself clear, I’m not against criticisms and dissent, I think oppositions is an integral part
of making and passing a law, it is the furnace to where the gold must go through in order to
eliminate its impurities and to form it into a gold bar. The 2007 Human Security Act, before it
was passed into law, had its fair share of criticism from different groups and by no less than the
United Nations. The Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 is also facing the same ordeal and just like the
Human Security Act of 2007, despite its good intention, the passing into law of the Anti-
Terrorism Bill of 2020 should not be prevented for we would also barred ourselves of the
benefit and security the law intends to provide, but it does not mean that dissent and
opposition are left with no remedy. They can still question the constitutionality and infirmities
of the law before the Supreme Court and in that sense the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 would
have gone through the furnace of the three branches of the government and as a result it
would make the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 a much more refined law.

"OHCHR |". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved  August 15,  2019.

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/06/18/20/ph-human-security-act-has-become-dead-letter-needs-to-
be-repealed-lacson

https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Duterte-s-terror-bill-threatens-freedom-in-the-name-of-security