Senate OKs anti-terrorism bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — The Senate approved on Wednesday a bill seeking to strengthen the anti-terrorism law.

Voting 19-2, senators passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1083 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. It seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 which defense and security officials said lacks teeth.

The bill seeks to extend the number of days suspected terrorists can be detained without a warrant of arrest – from three days under the current law to up to 14 days. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier wanted the Oeriod further extended to 60 days.

It also removed the provision under the Human Security Act that orders the payment of half a million pesos in damages for each day that a person wrongfully accused of terrorism is detained.

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief who co-authored the bill, earlier stressed that it has enough safeguards against possible abuses by arresting officers. He said law enforcement personnel can be punished with up to 10 years in jail if they violate the rights of suspected terrorists. The Commission on Human Rights shall also be notified whenever a person suspected of terrorism is detained.

Opposition Senators Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan voted against the bill.

In explaining his "no" vote, Pangilinan said the proposed measure is prone to abuse. He raised concerns over key provisions including allowing the police and military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, compelling telcos to disclose their calls and messages, among others. Pangilinan said the bill, once enacted, "may be used against critics and opposition leaders."

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.