Amid the continuing threat of terrorism, there is no time to waste in passing a stronger, balanced, and useful measure to stop it, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson said he is working to fast-track such a measure, which gives authorities more flexibility while upholding human rights, before Congress goes on Christmas break.
“There is no time to waste. Our present anti-terrorism law, the Human Security Act, is already 11 years old, yet no person or organization has ever been prosecuted under it. From 2007 to 2018, the law’s only ‘accomplishment’ was the proscription of the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group,” Lacson said.
“We understand the predicament of law enforcers. All they seek is a little flexibility. But we will also make sure respect for human rights will be primordial,” he added.
He noted their coordination with representatives from other countries such as Australia showed the HSA is among the world’s weakest anti-terror measures.
Philippine authorities are not keen on implementing the HSA due to a provision that fines law enforcers who prosecute the wrong person, to the tune of P500,000 per day of detention.
Lacson said they are inclined to remove this provision in the proposed new anti-terror law, and let the courts determine the penalties for false prosecution.
On the other hand, Lacson said the new measure will have safeguards to protect the rights of subjects of anti-terrorism operations, including surveillance.
“Anti-terrorism operations, including surveillance, should have basis. They cannot be capricious or whimsical on the part of national security officials,” he said.
He said surveillance operations must be authorized via judicial authorization and written authority from the Anti-Terrorism Council.
Even information obtained via surveillance should not be divulged if they are not relevant to the case, and should be deposited with the courts.
Earlier, Lacson filed Senate Bill 1956, which enhances the government’s anti-terrorism capabilities with provisions on foreign terrorists and additional predicate crimes.
Lacson’s bill adds three predicate crimes to the 12 in the present law. These include:
– RA 9208, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003
– RA 9165, Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002
– RA 10175, Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012