Lawmakers deny co-authoring anti-terrorism bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — Following backlash, a few lawmakers denied authorship of the much-criticized Anti-Terrorism Bill despite being listed as principal authors of the measure.

At least two key figures, Deputy Speakers Vilma Santos-Recto of Batangas and Loren Legarda of Antique, claimed that they did not co-author House Bill 6875 which was approved on third and final reading on Wednesday evening.

Santos-Recto's son TV host Luis Manzano tweeted a screencap of a text message from his mother, saying that she did not author the measure. She, however, said she is still in favor of it "with reservations."

"I am not a principal author of House Bill 6875. I'm in favor of it WITH RESERVATIONS. I have concern about the country's national security policy," her message read. "I just hope that the law enforcement agencies will implement it in accordance with the Constitution, full respect to human rights and without any abuse whatsoever."

Legarda also denied signing any form to signify her authorship of the measure.

"Just to clarify: I never signed a co-author form re anti-terror bill. In fact, I voted no to the measure," her tweet read.

Meanwhile, Agusan del Norte Rep Lawrence Fortun said his name was "inadvertently included by the committee staff" as he explained his "no" vote during the deliberation.

"Hindi po ako naging author ng panukalang ito kahit kailan (I was never an author of such measure in the first place). Inclusion of my name as co-author was a mistake, inadvertent in the part of the committee staff," said Fortun.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who defended the measure himself on Tuesday, withdrew his authorship and voted against the bill the following day, claiming that it did not reflect "his real work."

"My vote is no to the bill. My name could not be attached to a bill that is not my real work. So, my withdrawal as author of the measure is another thing that I would like to present to the House," he said, noting that the lower chamber should have crafted its own piece of legislation instead of passing the controversial measure as is.

The measure adopted by the House was the exact version that was passed in the Senate last February.

With 173 affirmative, 31 negative, and 29 abstention, the lower chamber approved on Wednesday the controversial bill which repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and allows the government to detain suspected terrorists without a warrant of arrest up to 14 days, extendable by another 10 days.

It also imposes 12 years of prison time to any person who threatens to commit any act of terrorism, proposes any such acts or incites others to commit terrorism.

The names of Legarda, Biazon, and Fortun were already removed under the latest details of the committee report posted in the House website, while Santos-Recto is still listed together with at least 55 congressmen as principal authors. Most of these lawmakers are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In the report received by the Bills and Index Services last May 30 from the committees on national defense and public order and safety, around 71 names were initially attached to the measure. The names of the four lawmakers are still visible in that version.

Duterte certified the measure as urgent just last Monday, days before Congress adjourns sine die.

The Senate then noted that the bill would be as "good as passed."

Artists, human rights advocates, and progressive groups have appealed for the junking of the bill, noting that it can be used to silence government critics.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo and other members of the opposition have called against the railroading of the measure, which can be misinterpreted and abused by the government.

Netizens also called against the passage of the bill, as the hashtag #JunkTerrorBillNow remained trending on social media on Thursday, along with the line 'ACTIVISM IS NOT TERRORISM.'