MANILA – Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte appreciates the support shown by various stakeholders to the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

“Sinabi ng Pangulo, ‘Huwag ka mag-alala. Pinag-aaralan ko na lang (ngayon), tuldok at comma’. Tinitingnan na lamang niya yung comma at period. So, ang ibig sabihin nun ay ina-appreciate ng ating Pangulo ‘yung mga expression of support, manifestations at nakita ko naman na ito ay isang kasagutan sa matagal nating problema (ng terorismo) (The President said, ‘Don’t worry, I am just now going over through the periods and commas’. That means the President appreciates the expression of support, manifestations and I see that this is the answer to our longstanding problem of terrorism),” Año said in a virtual press briefing.

He also thanked Senator Panfilo Lacson, principal author of the bill, for the measure which he described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to guarantee the safety of the people against terrorism”.

Año added that it is clear in the bill that activism is not terrorism and it guarantees the protection of human rights.

“Let’s give this anti-terrorism bill a chance. We can guarantee the safety of the people against terrorism,” Año said.

He added that the measure, in fact, seeks to protect the rights of innocent people from terrorists.

“The anti-terrorism bill aims to eradicate terrorism from our country. The people have nothing to fear from this bill; it is only the terrorists and their supporters who should fear it,” he added.

Año said he told the President that various local government units expressed support to the bill during the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) meeting in Malacañang.

“Naiulat ko sa Pangulo, despite maraming critics sa ating anti-terrorism bill, sinabi ko na maraming nag-express ng support (I reported to the President that despite many critics opposing the anti-terrorism bill, I told him that many people are also supporting it),” Año added.

Año also said the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and 13 Regional Peace and Order Councils have expressed support for the bill.

He also commended the 784 local chief executives (LCEs) for making a genuine stand in support of the measure despite the massive disinformation campaign against it.

The number is composed of 43 governors, 68 city mayors, and 673 municipal mayors.

Among LCEs who have conveyed their support for the Bill are Metro Manila Mayors League Chairman Edwin Olivarez, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora; Makati City Mayor Abby Binay; Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno; Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez; and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

More teeth on anti-terror crackdown

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the measure will allow government security forces to track down and defeat terrorist groups using the Philippines as a safe haven.

“I cannot second-guess the decision of our local chief executives on their positive reception and endorsement of the ATB (anti-terrorism bill). But as far as our Chief of Staff (Gen. Felimon Santos Jr.) is concerned he opines that among others, the ATB is a landmark legislation that will empower government-particularly security forces-to defeat terrorists that sees our country as a safe haven due to lenient anti-terrorism laws,” AFP public affairs office chief, Navy Captain Jonathan Zata said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) when asked why many LCEs are supportive of the bill.

Earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., said there is a need for the Philippines to craft up a stronger anti-terrorism law to show the world that it is committed to fighting and eliminating the terror threat.

“The Anti-Terrorism Act of our neighboring countries which were enacted before 2010 are more stringent. For instance, Australia has a minimum detention period of 14 days. In Malaysia, it can be up to two years. In Singapore, it is for 720 days. In Indonesia, it can be up to 120 days. The proposed bill prescribes only 14 days and there is a reason for that. This is for us to clearly see what they did before they can be really charged,” Esperon said.

The bill is now up for signature of the President after it was transmitted to his office last week.

Duterte can either sign the measure, which he certified as urgent, into law, veto it, or let it lapse into law after 30 days of receipt without signing it. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

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