‘UN vs UN?’ Lacson challenges Bachelet’s call for Duterte not to sign terror law
MANILA, Philippines — Is the United Nations going up against the United Nations?
Senator Panfilo Lacson posed this question on Thursday as he expressed doubt that the UN official who urged President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the anti-terrorism bill has actually read the provisions under the measure.
In a speech delivered during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet asked Duterte not to sign the controversial bill.
Bachelet had said that the passage of the measure “heightens our concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.”
“We crafted the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 based on the guidelines and standards set by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1373. It was the UN that prodded the Philippines to strengthen its laws against terrorism,” Lacson said in a statement.
“So, is this the United Nations going up against the United Nations? The problem with the critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill like the UN High Commissioner (for) Human Rights and the others is that they criticize without even reading the bill itself,” he added.
Lacson noted that the UNSC resolution declared that “planning and preparation, among others, are established as serious criminal offenses in domestic laws and that the punishment should duly reflect the seriousness of such terrorist acts.”
“I think the UNSC members have read the provisions of this bill because sila nangulit sa amin dito. Unfortunately, and I can safely assume that the one voicing (her) opinion against this measure, I doubt if (she) has read the provisions under the measure,” Lacson said during the Rotary Club of Manila meeting.
The anti-terror bill seeks to amend and repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) and punish those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; including those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.
Lacson further stressed that the anti-terror measure is crafted to fight terrorists, adding that the bill “is not meant to be beneficial for anyone else but the Filipino citizenry.”
“Paulit-ulit kong sasabihin sa mga nagbibingi-bingihan na: ang anti-terrorism bill ay para labanan ang mga terorista, hindi ang mga nagpo-protesta,” he said.
(I have repeatedly said to those who choose to be deaf: The anti-terrorism bill is crafted to fight against terrorists and not against protesters).
“It is dismay that when misconceptions erode the very value of our public discourse, many jump into the wagon and lose sight of logic and reason,” Lacson added.
The senator, one of the principal authors of the bill, once again dismissed fears that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which would be created under the measure, could authorize the arrest of suspected terrorists.
“To be clear, the written authority issued by the ATC under Section 29 of the proposed bill is to be directed to its duly designated deputies such as law enforcement agents and military personnel specially tasked and trained to handle the ‘custodial investigation’ involving violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as proposed, considering the complexities and nature of terrorism,” Lacson explained.
“Not all police officers are trained interrogators and investigators, especially involving a crime as complex and complicated as an act of terrorism. These specially-trained law enforcement officers and military personnel shall need a written authority to be deputized by the ATC to perform such tasks,” he added.
Moreover, Lacson said that under the bill, a “designated terrorist group or organization must first be proscribed” to effect an arrest.
This, as he refuted anew retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who was earlier quoted as saying that an individual “designated” as a terrorist “can now be arrested upon order of the ATC because the individual is engaged in terrorism.”
“Proscription under Section 26 requires court intervention where a full-blown hearing will take place before an organization may be considered a terrorist organization. It may be done only upon an application filed by the DOJ (Department of Justice) before the Court of Appeals, with due notice and opportunity to be heard given the suspected terrorist groups or organizations or associations,” Lacson explained.
“Even membership in a proscribed terrorist organization will undergo the same due process of law where the burden of proof lies with the DOJ before the authorized division of the Court of Appeals can declare that individual as a member of a proscribed terrorist organization and thereafter can be arrested,” he added.
“Having said that, there are people, learned as they are, merely jumped into the wagon of criticisms without thoroughly reading and understanding the provisions under the proposed measure,” he further said.
The controversial bill, which has been met with widespread opposition over fears that the measure could spur human rights violations and suppress dissent against the government, is now only awaiting Duterte’s signature before becoming a law.
Malacañang said the bill is now with the Office of the Executive Secretary for final review before being handed to Duterte.
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