Malacañang receives anti-terrorism bill for Duterte's signature

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9) — The controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill that allows the detention of suspected terrorists without a warrant for up to 24 days was received by Malacañang on Tuesday.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, and the Office of the President have received the emailed copy of the bill.

Despite several House lawmakers seeking to withdraw their authorship and votes even after it was approved on final reading, Sotto said he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano have signed the final copy of the proposed bill. It now awaits President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.

"A bill passed by both Houses of Congress already enrolled and yet some congressmen would like to hold it? It has never been done," Sotto said in a message to reporters.

Under House rules, reconsideration of a bill can only be done during session. Congress adjourned sine die on June 5.

The proposed measure, certified by Duterte as urgent, will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 by giving more surveillance powers to government forces.

Although Duterte is expected to enact the much-criticized measure, his spokesman assured that it will be subject to final review before deciding on whether to sign it or not.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expects Malacañang to ask the Department of Justice for its comments on the measure, which he believes the agency can give in 15 days.

“We shall focus on issues of constitutionality,” Guevarra said. “I believe that 15 days will be good enough [to comment on the bill.] The President has 30 days to act on the bill.”

He added that should the bill be approved by Duterte, the DOJ will try to “define more clearly … the parameters within which the law will be implemented and enforced, in order to erase any latitude for misapplication or abuse” in the implementing rules and regulations of the law.

Duterte can either approve, reject or simply let the measure lapse into law by not signing it within 30 days. If rejected, the bill will be sent back to Congress and each chamber would have to muster a two-thirds vote to override Duterte’s rejection.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also denied allegations that the bill was railroaded, saying it has been pending in Congress since 2018.

The proposed law defines a terrorist as anyone who participates in any activity which endangers a person’s life, causes damage or destruction to a government facility or private property, develops or possesses explosive devices or weapons, or releases any weapon of mass destruction.

The police and the military can now track down suspected individuals or organizations and record discussions or communications supposedly regarding terrorism.

Once enacted into law, suspected terrorists can be detained without a warrant of arrest up to 14 days and that period may be extended by another 10 days. Anyone who threatens to commit terrorism or incite others to do any such act also will be penalized with an imprisonment of 12 years.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines said that the provision that allows the Anti-Terrorism Council to authorize the arrest of suspected terrorists without a warrant is possibly unconstitutional as it usurps some functions of the judiciary.

The official organization of all Philippine lawyers is calling on Duterte to reject the bill.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the constitutionality of certain provisions can immediately be questioned in the Supreme Court once Duterte signs the bill it into law.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said they are ready to challenge it before the Supreme Court once Duterte signs it, arguing that the measure poses threats against progressive groups, who previously faced "red-tagging" from state forces.

CNN Philippines’ Joyce Ilas and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.