Duterte signs into law the controversial anti-terrorism bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the anti-terrorism bill, which has been a target of local and international criticisms.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the signing on Friday, a day after he announced that the Palace’s legal team was done reviewing the measure.

“As we have said, the President, together with his legal team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders,” Roque said in a statement.

Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, repeals the Human Security Act of 2007, giving more surveillance powers to government forces. Among its contentious features is a provision allowing suspected terrorists to be arrested without warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days.

Critics said the hotly-contested measure relaxes safeguards on human rights and is open to abuse, but lawmakers who authored and sponsored the bill said it is at par with the laws of other countries and will not be used against law-abiding citizens.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said all provisions of the law will take effect after publication pending the issuance of implementing rules and regulations.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, principal sponsor and one of the authors of the bill, said the Anti-Terrorism Council will lead the crafting of the IRR, which would "fine-tune" certain provisions and clarify the scope of the council’s powers.

READ: Anti-Terrorism Council won't be 'sole arbiter' in tagging, arresting suspected terrorists – Lacson

In a statement on Friday, Lacson praised Duterte for signing the measure despite “all the pressure coming from different directions.”

“Rest assured that I will exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation,” he said.

Even United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet earlier urged Duterte “to refrain from signing the law” and instead come up with a measure with safeguards against possible abuse.

Opposition Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said he was not surprised by Duterte's decision to sign the "draconian measure," which former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said would face legal challenge in the Supreme Court once enacted.

"Handa tayong kwestyunin ang Constitutionality ng batas na ito sa Korte Suprema. Hindi pa tapos ang boksing. Hindi pa tapos ang laban," Pangilinan said.

READ: Some senators, AFP hail Duterte’s signing of Anti-Terrorism Law, but critics fear for human rights