Anti-terrorism bill problematic even under the best gov't leaders – Hontiveros

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) – The Anti-Terrorism Bill is fundamentally flawed and is something that should not be passed across administrations, Senator Risa Hontiveros said, as she hopes for a Presidential veto before the measure lapses into law next week.

The senator told CNN Philippines' The Source that the controversial bill – touted to be prone to abuse by law enforcers just to silence dissent – should not see enactment even under the most humane and transparent regimes.

"Naisip ko rin talaga, kahit pa nakaraang administrasyon pa ito [It has occurred to me that even if this was pushed by the previous administration] which I was an ally of, even if it were still the Noynoy Aquino administration, I would still have voted against the bill," Hontiveros said.

"All of us are against terrorist actions and it is the duty of government to secure people's safety against terrorist actions, but not with this overly broad, vague, and subject to interpretation definition," she added.

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The proposed law allows the police to make warrantless arrests and keep suspected terrorists detained for 14 days – which can be extended by another 10 days – as authorities build a case and to stop any planned criminal acts. Police and military officials have said there are enough safeguards in the measure to prevent abuse.

"Even if it had been the best of administrations, I would have voted against it... We always legislate with the possibility of worst administrations in mind, not presuming best administrations," she added.

The Anti-Terrorism Bill has been slammed by human rights, media, civil society, and even business groups for its vague provisions and untimely passage, which comes in the middle of the government's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawmaker added that it was insensitive to suddenly certify the measure as urgent in the middle of economic sufferings, hunger and job losses due to strict stay-at-home rules.

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Instead, Hontiveros said amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 would do in tightening the country's watch against terrorists. She voted against the measure when it was tackled by the Senate in February. The House of Representatives fast-tracked its approval and adopted the Senate version before ending sessions in early June.

The bill will lapse into law by July 9 unless President Rodrigo Duterte either signs it into law ahead of time or decides to veto certain sections or even the entire measure before that.

"I really hope government vetoes the bill, the public needs to regain complete trust that government is first and foremost and urgently addressing the pandemic, the health crisis, the economic crisis also brought on by our necessary quarantines instead of prioritizing consolidating its power," Hontiveros said.

She pointed out how the proposed law will add to the Duterte administration's penchant for using "iron-fisted governance" and has had numerous complaints regarding human rights violations in the past four years.

OPINION: The Anti-Terror Bill is a law that lends itself easily to abuse

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the measure is now under final review in Malacañang. He said earlier that Duterte is "inclined" to sign it into law.