Anti-Terrorism Act earns sweeping support among Bohol peace, order councils
CORTES, Bohol, July 5 (PIA) — The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which Pres. Rodrigo Duterte earlier signified as urgent and signed into law last week has earned the overwhelming support by the province’s 47 municipal and city peace and order councils (MPOC/CPOC) which signed the Manifesto of Support for the Act.
The local peace councils, composed of the mayors and Sangguniang Bayan legislators, sectoral representatives including private, church and youth sector representatives, are tasked to craft policies relative to peace and order in their localities.
In his report to the virtual joint meetings of the Provincial Peace and Order Council and the Provincial Anti Drug Abuse Council last week, Bohol Police Chief Sr. Supt. Joselito Clarito said that this move boosts the realization of the president’s directive to end local communist armed conflicts (ELCAC) soon.
During the same meeting, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Bohol Provincial Director Jerome Gonzales shared the presentation on the Anti-Terrorism Law briefer.
Gonzales highlighted the need for the country to have a law that can effectively curb terrorism, citing that the earlier Human Security Act (HSA) of 2017 remains a dead letter law and is severely underutilized.
With the HAS in existence, the Global Terrorism Index of 2019 places the Philippines as the 9th most negatively affected by terrorism, along with Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Yemen and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As an example, he said even with the HSA of 2007, it has identified only the Abu Sayaff Group as the only declared terrorist group in the Philippines and with the real and present threat presented by terrorist organizations, groups, and individuals to the Filipino people, it has convicted only one Nur Supian in November 2018 for recruiting participants in the 2017 Marawi siege.
This is because in the absence of a law, when terrorists are captured, they are charged with cases for violations of the Revised Penal Code, or illegal possession of firearms or some other special laws other than terrorism.
Gonzales said even Jolo suicide bombings suspects in 2018 faced multiple murder and frustrated murder charges for the deaths and injuries caused by the said bombings, when it was clearly a terroristic act.
The proposed law had critics accusing government of cleverly instituting martial law.
But Gonzales insists that “while the measure includes tough provisions against terrorists including foreign ones, even tougher safeguards are in place against abuse.”
The new law defines terrorism as an act committed by anyone within or outside the Philippines, regardless of the stage executions, and a terrorist as one who engages in any acts intended to cause death, injury, or endangers a person’s life, acts that cause extensive damage to a government or public facility, public places or private properties, or acts that cause extensive interference, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure.
It also defines a terrorist as one who develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transports, supplies or uses weapons and releases explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons intended to intimidate the general public, create or spread fear.
It also includes acts to provoke or influence by intimidation, the government or any international organization, or seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.
Briefly stated, acts to be considered terroristic must have intent and purpose taken together and established.
Those found to be guilty, not by any one but by a competent court, shall be guilty of committing terrorism and shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment without parole and the benefits of Republic Act No. 10592.
While critics allege that the new law curtails freedom of speech, Gonzales assures the Freedom of Speech is a right that is constitutionally guaranteed.
As long as the exercise of the rights do not intend to kill or injure a person and endanger his life or jeopardize public safety, then it is still construed as within the exercise of civil and political rights, DILG hinted.
Acts punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Bill include threat to commit terrorism, planning, training, preparing and facilitating to commit an act of terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, proposal to commit terrorism, inciting to commit terrorism like recruitment and membership in a terrorist organization and providing material support to terrorist, especially when one has a knowledge that the individual, association, or group of persons is committing or planning to commit acts of terrorism. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)