MANILA – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday defended the approval of the controversial anti-terror bill, saying that the measure would not target activists.
“Let me make that clear ha. We agree with you. Ang aktibismo po ay hindi terrorism (Activism is not terrorism). We want to promote activism… Activism is essential. Hindi magbabago ang mga dapat baguhin sa ating bansa ‘pag walang aktibismo (The necessary changes won’t happen in our country without activism),” Cayetano said in his adjournment speech.
The measure states that terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights, which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.”
Cayetano, however, reminded activists not to allow terrorists to hide within their groups.
“Terrorism is not activism. So in the same way that we should not persecute or go after the activists in the guise that they are terrorists. Kayong mga aktibista (You activists), do not allow the terrorists to hide within your ranks,” he said.
He cited the case of the 2017 Marawi siege wherein terrorists have infiltrated the law-abiding community.
“Most of the citizens of Marawi are law-abiding. Many of the people of Marawi were just fighting for the traditional and historic injustices for the discrimination against mga kababayan nating Muslim. Ang problema po, nasingitan ng ilang mga terorista na armas at dahas ang gusto (The problem was that terrorists have pervaded [the community] with weapons and violence),” he said.
He also urged critics to read and examine the bill seeking to provide more teeth to the law against terrorism.
“Basahin n’yo naman ang batas. Hindi n’yo pwedeng sabihing, “Congress please listen,” tapos sasagot kami, ayaw n’yo namang basahin ‘yung batas (Read the proposed law. You can’t tell us ‘Congress please listen’, then we’ll answer, but you still won’t read the bill),” he said.
The House has adopted the Senate version of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in order to do away with a bicameral conference and immediately transmit the measure to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
The bill introduced provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; possess objects connected with the preparation for the commission of terrorism; or collect or make documents connected with the preparation of terrorism.
Under the bill, any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.
Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall suffer imprisonment of 12 years.
Under the bill, the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days. (PNA)