NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
All three Boholano solons were among the 173 members of the House of Representatives who voted Tuesday for the passage of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill which only awaits the signature of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to become a law.
With only 31 negative votes and 29 abstentions, the House approved on final reading House Bill No. 6875 which seeks to amend the Human Security Act of 2007 for deliberation.
Rep. Edgar Chatto, Rep. ArisAumentado and Rep.Alexi Tutor confirmed to the Chronicle that they registered their affirmative vote to the bill to fight terrorism.
For his part, the come backing solonChatto said that his vote came after discussing with some local officials and legal minds who were with him while he was then the governor of the provinces during the Abu Sayaff incursion on the rigidities of the earlier Human Security Act of 2007 which posed difficulties in the prosecution of cases.
Thus, even the PNP Officer who allegedly attempted to rescue the terrorists after killing three AFP and PNP officers can be charged only with crimes under the Revised Penal Code (RPC ) , not under the Human Security Act – resistance to arrest and illegal possession of firearms.
Thirteen years have passed since the Act was approved in 2007, only very few were charged under the law. The conviction is dismal even if terrorism is very much around. Terrorism is a very damaging act which needs stronger response by law enforcement agencies.
“We agree that basic human rights must be protected at all times and abuse of power by the authorities must be punished with full force of the law,” he stressed. However, he said the bill still has its safeguards which would greatly aid our law enforcers in their campaign against those who seek to harm our country.
Rep. Aumentado, son of the late Gov. EricoAumentado said the Anti-Terorism Law allows pre-emptive strike among these elements without having to undergo the long and tedious legal process. This fast action prevents bloodshed that many times involve civilians caught in the crossfire. Lives need not be lost.
The solon said he has confidence that under the Duterte presidency, the administration of justice will prevail in that the suspects will still be given their day in court.
In favoring the bill, he strongly condemned confrontational approaches as the solution of peace and order issues. He prefers a pre-emptive action in order to avoid violence that may affect innocent civilians.
“Bloody encounters between government forces and those creating havoc in our communities and those wanting to bring down our government should be avoided at all cost,” the 2nd district solon said.
For her part, first termer Rep. Alexi Tutor said the Abu Sayaff encounter in Bohol wayback 2017 was an eye opener of what terrorism can do.
“I do not want that such incident will occur again in our beloved province, its brutality knows no bounds,:” she said
The lady solon said it is like a bomb waiting to explode and we cannot just remain lenient even in the midst of a pandemic. Just because we are in a crisis situation, does not mean that terrorists will not strike. “When they do, God forbid, what then shall we do?” Rep. Tutor asked.
She elaorated saying the clear intent of the approved bill is to suppress, prevent or deter and punish acts of terrorism. This serves as the backbone and teeth to support the criminal justice response against terrorism. In comparison with the Human Security Act, this bill has a more comprehensive approach in addressing the threats and acts of terrorism.
Reacting to the critics, she said apprehensions arise probably due to misinterpretation, misinformation and misconception by some sectors.
Rep. Tutor cited specific provision like the 14-day detention of suspects . The purpose of the detention with or without a 10-day extension is to preserve evidence, complete the investigation and prevent the commission of another terrrorism, thereby building an air-tight case. Section 29 of the approved bill clearly cites the circumstances thereof; succeeding sections provides the safeguards to ensure the rights of the detainee.
To quote Sen. Lacson, ” It is within the moderate to lenient bracket. Australia and Sri Lanka, in their proposed ammendment to their Anti- Terrror Law, allows for 14 days detention without warrant of arrest. Bangladesh allows for 15 days, Indonesia for 21 days, Pakistan for 30 days, Malaysia for 59 days and Singapore for 730 days.”
She said the critics can freely express themselves as there is no curtailment of each right, Rep. Tutor concluded.