Vice President Leni Robredo questioned the timing of the anti-terror bill, which President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent despite the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The VP urged lawmakers to maintain focus on immediate and critical efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic and its mandate of keeping the citizens safe.
“Itutok sana ng bawat institusyon ang buo at walang-kahating atensyon sa pagtugon sa mga pinakaagaran at pinakamahahalagang pangangailangan,” she said.
[Agencies should focus their whole attention in addressing the public’s most immediate and pressing needs.]
“Ang masasabi natin ukol sa Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020: Wala ni isa sa mga nabanggit kong pangangailangan ang matutugunan ng batas na ito,” she added.
[What I can say about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020: The bill will not address any of the concerns I mentioned.]
She reminded lawmakers to be careful about crafting laws such as the proposed Anti-Terrorism bill because it will and can cost lives of innocent citizens.
“Huwag madaliin ang pagpanday ng batas, lalo na ang mga batas na direktang nakakaapekto sa buhay at paraan ng pamumuhay ng napakarami sa atin.“
[Don’t rush crafting the law, especially ones that directly affect the lives of many of us.]
Robredo emphasized the potential of the bill to suppress the Filipinos’ right to free speech.
“Especially in the wrong hands—in the hands of people who have no qualms about using disinformation, inventing evidence, or finding the smallest of pretexts to silence its critics—napakamapanganib ng kapangyarihang ito [this power is dangerous],” she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent the bill that contains provisions which would give the government power and authority to wiretap suspects, arrest them without warrants and hold them without charge for up to 24 days, among others.