All the Anti-Terror Bill Needs Is Duterte's Signature

The Palace confirmed on June 9 that it has already received a copy of the Anti-Terror Bill.

The controversial Anti-Terror Bill—which allows the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days without a warrant—has been making waves online. President Rodrigo Duterte marked it “urgent” and both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted in favor of the bill, prompting criticism and anger from the folks of the Internet.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, and the Office of the President have received a digital copy of the bill via e-mail.

After #JunkTerrorBill trended online following its approval on the final reading and protestors took to the streets to voice their dissent, several lawmakers from the House withdrew their authorship and votes. As of writing, 12 more votes must be withdrawn to pull the bill back for reconsideration.

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However, Sotto said he had already signed it along with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. All it needs now is Duterte’s signature.

In a CNN Philippines report, Sotto said there’s no way to hold the bill after the final reading: "A bill passed by both Houses of Congress already enrolled and yet some congressmen would like to hold it? It has never been done."

Following House rules, a bill can only be reconsidered during a session. Congress—which houses the House of Representatives composed of congressmen and women, and the Senate composed of senators—adjourned on June 5, with no hint as to when it will resume again.

If approved, the Anti-Terror Bill will revoke the Human Security Act of 2007 and grant government authorities and forces more surveillance powers.

Duterte has 30 days to make up his mind. The Palace is expected to approach the Department of Justice (DOJ) for guidance. DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the agency could provide it in just 15 days.

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

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The bill has several points of contention with some sections considered to be unconstitutional. Some lawmakers voted yes with reservations. Should Duterte approve the bill, 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.” 

Three things can happen; Duterte approves and signs it, he rejects the bill, or it could lapse if he doesn’t sign it in 30 days. If it gets rejected, it will return to Congress where the House of Representatives and the Senate must pull a two-thirds vote to veto Duterte’s rejection. 

The Anti-Terror Bill defines a terrorist as anyone who participates in any act which endangers a person’s life, causes damage or destruction to a government facility or private property, engages in acts that cause interference, manufactures or possesses explosives or weapons, or releases any chemical which can cause mass destruction or harm.

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The bill also grants police and the military the power to track down suspected individuals or organizations, record discussions, tap communication lines, and intercept any communication involving terrorism.

Once enacted into law, enforcers won’t need a warrant to detain suspected terrorists. They can be detained for up to 14 days, which can be extended by another 10 days.

Individuals who even think of committing acts of terrorism or to incite others to commit acts of terrorism will be slapped with a penalty of imprisonment for 12 years.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines—the official organization of all lawyers in the Philippines—said that the warrantless arrest of a suspected terrorist is possibly unconstitutional as it oversteps some functions of the judiciary.

Even if signed into law, Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the constitutionality of certain provisions could be questioned in the Supreme Court.

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