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THE VOTE:  If we use this bill against innocent individuals, we ourselves commit terrorism because we wantonly violate their constitutional rights

[Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace S. Barbers  explains via Zoom, his “Yes” vote to HB 6875  (the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020), at the House of Representatives on 3 June 2020]

Mr. Speaker, esteemed colleagues, I am one of the original authors of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which we now call the Human Security Act of 2007 or RA 9372. Thus, I am expected to have no issue with HB 6875. I laud the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police and the President for this timely measure. After all, who loves terrorists.

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However, even though I agree in principle, I have some misgivings on certain provisions of the bill.

For one, this bill being an amendment of the Human Security Act should have been amendatory in nature and not repealing.

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Second, I find it bothersome that some of the safeguards in the present law were discarded. For real terrorists, this is good.

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For captured Abu Sayaf terrorists, Maute bandits, and other armed rebel groups as well as foreigners who aid them, this measure is laudable. Putting them in custody for long periods so as to be able to extract valuable information from them is ideal.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace S. Barbers explains his “Yes” vote to HB 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism bill, via Zoom during the House of Representatives’ session on 03 June 2020. Screengrabbed from livestreamed session

But for those hapless individuals who may be victimized for the flimsiest reason by abusive individuals, how will they be treated? We all know from our rich political history how abusive law enforcers who are backed up by local and national politicians can arrest people on trumped up charges and destroy their lives and future and their families as well. This is the heart of the decades old rebellion that we are fighting until now, without an end in sight still.

The objective is laudable, but in the hands of the wrong people, this bill is a potent weapon, which can be politically used. That is my greatest apprehension.

Another example could be political dissent before and during elections most especially. People critical of the sitting administration may be threatened with this crime, and all their conversations tapped as authorized under this bill.

If some people resort to this method, new rebels will be born, and the cycle will be repeated until these new fighters will know nothing else but to fight. Until rebellion becomes their way of life, like in other countries in the Middle East. Generations upon generations of fighters who know nothing else but war.

We all want peace. We all want to run after terrorists and prevent them from sowing terror and destruction in our lives and property, but if we use this bill against innocent individuals, we ourselves commit terrorism because we wantonly violate their constitutional rights and worse, we too destroy their lives and their future.

By allowing a group of politicized individuals who comprise a task force as substitute to the impartial judges and civilian courts, in ordering the arrest and detention of any individual who may be suspected of being engaged in terrorism as broadly defined under Section 4 seems violative of our democratic and constitutional rights as we know it, as well as the doctrine of the checks and balances under a democratic government, where three branches have their own respective jurisdictions and are independent of each other. Even merely threatening to kill or injure an individual which is Grave Threat under the Revised Penal Code is already a crime with a stiffer penalty under the bill.

Mr. Speaker, these are but a few of my concerns in this bill. There are others that need to be scrutinized deeper but we seem to be out of time. I am hopeful though that we can still make amendments to this bill in the Bicam. I am not closing that possibility. So with that hope, I vote YES.

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