Lawmakers and military applaud passage of Anti-Terror bill, critics fear potential human rights abuse

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Some senators and the Armed Forces of the Philippines lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for finally signing the Anti-Terrorism Law on Friday, but critics remain steadfast in questioning the law’s constitutionality and reveal how the measure violates basic human rights.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed his euphoria over the passage of the said bill.

“This new law against terrorism is the answer. The government’s hands are no longer tied. We now stand at par with many countries in the region in capacity- building measures against terrorists,” said Sotto.

Sen. Francis Tolentino called the signing of ATL “timely and historic.”

“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand with economic rejuvenation post COVID-19. We should all support this measure,” Tolentino said.

In addition, the Armed Forces of the Philippines expressed its support and emphasized how the newly passed measure will help the government forces defend the public from extremists.

“We now have a powerful statute that provides law enforcement agencies the legal wherewithal to protect and defend our people,” said Armed Forces Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgar Arevalo in a statement.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson complimented Duterte’s strong political will for signing the bill despite the controversies surrounding it.

“With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered most. I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration,” said Lacson.

Of course, members of the opposition present in the Senate do not share the same sentiments.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros lamented the signing of this measure amidst the more important issue which is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While the country’s COVID-19 cases have gone past 40,000 and while 7.3 million Filipinos have lost their jobs and livelihood, Malacanang has instead signed the Anti-Terrorism Law that it will use to trample on Filipinos’ basic rights and freedoms,” said Hontiveros.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan he was not surprised the Duterte administration prioritized a “draconian and authoritarian” measure, but he reiterates that it will not solve the poverty and problems of the health crisis plaguing the country.

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives called out the president for allowing a law such as this be passed amid the health crisis the country is facing.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon, Ateneo de Manila University School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza said the new law effectively repealed the Human Security Act of 2007 by expanding the government forces’ powers on surveillance.

But Mendoza underlined the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a good measure to combat terrorism in the country if the government’s institutions are trustworthy and accountable on using their power to rightfully solve terrorist threats in the society.

“I think the debate right now is that many people are concerned that the very institutions that will be tasked to implement the law are also those with right now a little bit of a history of human rights abuses, governance failures, links to extra-judicial killings and so on and so forth,” said Mendoza.

Ex-PRRD no show for grave threats probe

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MRT-3 to file petition for fare hike anew

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