Esperon assures Anti-Terrorism Bill critics: Activism is not terrorism

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 15) — National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Monday defended the need to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill amid mounting criticisms against its supposed unconstitutional provisions.

Esperon claimed the proposed measure is clear about its definition of terrorism, which excludes advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar actions in exercising civil and political rights.

"Activism is not terrorism. And terrorism is not activism," he said in a media briefing.

The bill qualified that actions would not be considered as terrorism if they "are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person's life, or to create a serious risk to public safety."

Critics have argued the danger in the provision, since the Anti-Terrorism Council, composed of Cabinet members, will have the power to determine what constitutes a risk.

Esperon assured that there are safety nets in the proposed law and that there's nothing to worry about.

Under the bill, illegal surveillance, violation of rights of detainees, torture and inhumane treatment by persons in authority are all punishable.

"Katulong natin dito ang special courts. Kapag may hinuli ka, dapat mag-report ka agad doon. Pangalawa, kailangan mag-report ka din sa Commission on Human Rights para mag-imbestiga sila kung tama ang naaresto. At nandiyan din ang tinatawag na oversight committee ng Kongreso na ang mga miyembro ay galing sa House of Representatives at sa Senado," the national security adviser said.

[Translation: The special courts will help us here. When you arrest someone, you have to report that right away. They also need to report to the CHR so they can determine if they have the right person. There is also an oversight committee composed of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.]


Critics have said that there are unconstitutional provisions in the Anti Terrorism Bill, such as the warrantless arrest, detention of up to 24 days of suspected terrorists, and the power of the Anti-Terrorism Council to identify suspected terrorists.

But for Esperon, they are justifiable.

"Bakit kinokontra ‘yung sinasabi nila na ang Anti-Terrorism Council ay may kapangyarihan na magbigay ng order for arrest? Totoo ‘yun dahil ‘yung ipapa-aresto, na-proscribe na at meron na tayong surveillance. At kung hindi man ay ginagawa na niya ‘yung terroristic act. May preemptive capacity ang Anti-Terrorism Council."

[Translation: Why are they against the provision that allows the Anti-Terrorism Council to order arrests? The one going to be arrested would already have been proscribed and under surveillance. Or if not, he is already in the process of committing the terroristic act. The Anti-Terrorism Council has a preemptive capacity.]

The Anti-Terrorism Bill is now up for signature by President Rodrigo Duterte, who had certified the bill as an urgent legislative measure.

Esperon urged critics to question it before the Supreme Court once Duterte signs it into law.

"Ako ay naniniwala sa kakayahan at kredibilidad ng Supreme Court. Kaya kung ano ang desisyon nila, tatalima tayo doon. We will abide by that. E di pabayaan natin silang dumulog sa Korte Suprema. Tingnan natin kung anong mangyari," Esperon said.

[Translation: I believe in the ability and credibility of the Supreme Court. Whatever its decision, we will abide by it. We will let them bring the issue to the Supreme Court. We’ll see what will happen.]