CEBU CITY – The Anti-Terrorism Bill, once signed by President Rodrigo Duterte into law, will serve as a proactive stance against terrorism in the Philippines that “bolsters its core intent to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism and to condemn terrorism as inimical to the welfare of the people.”
In a statement on June 11, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Central Visayas, said the body supports the passage of the bill that seeks to repeal Republic Act 9372 or Human Security Act of 2007.
While Filipinos do not want confrontations between lawless elements and the government personnel, he said the government side should have a legislative enactment that fortifies its efforts in preventing terror attacks.
“Being better equipped should not only involve guns and artillery. It should likewise come in laws and policies that support our law enforcement agents and military personnel in preventing possible attacks,” he added.
He recalled the five-month-long battle between government troops and ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group in Marawi City in 2017 that killed and wounded hundreds of soldiers, police officers, and civilians.
Also in 2017, 11 Abu Sayyaf terrorists slipped into Inabanga, Bohol, and clashed with soldiers from the Intelligence Platoon of the 47th Infantry (Katapatan) Battalion, 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army and policemen from the Bohol Provincial Police Office.
All the 11 Islamic militants, including sub-leaders, Inabanga-native Joselio Melloria alias Abu Alih, and Muamar Askali alias Abu Rami were killed by government forces.
On the government side, three soldiers and a policeman were killed in the firefight.
“These unfortunate events (Marawi and Inabanga sieges) should not happen again,” Labella said, stressing that “acts of terror have no place in our society”.
Labella also dismissed criticisms saying that Malacañang should focus its attention in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic instead of the bill, saying that “we cannot lose sight of our duty to maintain peace and order” while solving the health crisis.
As terrorists are “only waiting for an opportunity to strike”, Labella said Filipinos “cannot afford to wait for another to attack” to happen.
“We have to be better equipped in fighting them,” he added.
Although he understands the sentiments of some quarters that are against the bill, he said, “as a lawyer and as a citizen of this country, I trust that more than anything else, the government will always keep the best interest and welfare of its people paramount.” (PNA)