The anti-terror bill comes in the wake of the Philippine’s anticipation of a vaccine to relieve its fears prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The stealthy and sneaky character of the move by the Philippine congress has created a pandemonium composed mostly of fears and doubts on the unconstitutional provisions of the the bill. The country’s lower chamber approved the bill in the third and final reading. The House’s version replicates that of the senate’s.
The bill is short of becoming a law sans President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. Once signed by the President, it will replace the Human Security Act of 2007, which fines law enforcers 500,000 pesos for each day of a wrongful detention of a suspected terrorist.
The United Nations Human Rights Office released a statement on Thursday expressed that the bill is “worrying” especially that there is a provision that allows detention of a suspected terror without warrant up to 24 days. The office added that human rights concerns in the Philippines “have become more acute in recent years”.
Expressed fears found their ways into the social media as #JunkTerrorBillNow trended on Twitter. Groups took advantage of the GCQ to have their sentiments heard through protests. The fears stem from the unconstitutional provisions included in the bill and that the terror tag can be easily applied to those who oppose the government within constitutional bounds and those who expressed dissent. Vice President Leni Robredo said that the “bill is dangerous” especially “in the hands of people who have no qualms about using disinformation, inventing evidence, or finding the smallest of pretexts to silence its critics.”
However, the government downplayed fears saying that the bill will be reviewed before being signed into law even if it was certified as urgent by the President himself. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured that the President will not be in a rush to sign the bill into law. It was February this year that the Philippine Senate approve of the bill in third and final reading.
Meanwhile, Muntinlupa representative Ruffy Biazon withdrew his support of the bill on June 3, a day after he defended the bill in the plenary . The lawmaker said that the bill is “not my work” because it is a replica of the senate version.
Congressman Jericho Nograles, a known Duterte ally, is the leading sponsor of the bill. He said that that under the bill “activism is not terrorism”. He said that there are provisions that sufficiently safeguard citizen’s rights. Representative Carlos Zarate said that the leadership in the House of Representatives rams through “unconstitutional” legislation in the Congress. The opposition is expected to raise the issue to the Supreme Court for constitutionality.
In what can be considered as one of the most challenging times in Philippine history, when the Filipino people badly want a vaccine, they are served with a bill. A bill viewed by some as a vaccine that can innundate the nation’s immunity with human rights and constitutional abuses.