(July 03, 2020) – President Rodrigo Duterte has completely ignored some lawmakers, human rights groups and Muslim leaders and signed into law the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill, the executive secretary and a government spokesman said on Friday.
The popular leader did not veto any portion of the bill, spokesman Harry Roque told journalists , adding he also approved what the two chambers of Congress enacted in early June.
It was a certified urgent measure replacing a 2007 anti-terror law which was described as an ineffective.
“We confirm that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, today, 3 July 2020,” Roque said in a statement.
“Terrorism, as we often said, strikes anytime and anywhere. It is a crime against the people and humanity; thus, the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach to contain terrorist threat.”
He said the signing of the bill “demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people.”
He also assured critics the president and his legal team have taken enough time “to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders”.
There had been concerns that the president would allow the approved bill to eventually lapse into law by July 9.
But Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed that Duterte did sign the law on Friday, the same day that he went to Zamboanga.
The chief executive was supposed to meet officials of the armed forces and the police who killed four military intelligence personnel, who were chasing suspected bombers of the pro-Islamic State group Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act despite vocal opposition from the minority, various concerned groups, and even the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Issues were raised with the possibility of further human rights violations and abuse of power, following Duterte’s drug war.
They raised concerns with several provisions, such as the lengthened period of warrantless arrests for 14 days, the power of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to designate individuals and groups as terrorist, as well as the power to ask foreign governments to detain and interrogate suspected individuals.
But proponents of the bill said the country needed stronger laws against terrorism following the siege of the Maute group in Marawi City three years ago.
“It’s full of safeguards but strong against terrorists. Unlike the old law, it was subject to abuse by the terrorists,” said Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council also batted for the law as it would prevent the Philippines from falling into the “grey list” of countries that fail to curb financing of terrorism. (Katrina Elaine Alba/MM)
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