MANILA – The Philippines’ proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is “at par” with the anti-terrorism legislation of the developed countries, Malacañang said on Wednesday with the measure only a signature away from becoming law.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged President Rodrigo Duterte to “refrain” from signing the anti-terrorism bill.

She made this call during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on June 30, saying the passage of the controversial bill could intensify concerns on the “blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality, and terrorism.”

Roque explained that other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom had “more draconian” laws compared to the Philippines.

“I think, it’s a view of the High Commission of the Human Rights has to be taken in the context of other existing Anti-Terror legislation and I’m sure that the studies will confirm that we are at par as with the rest of the developed world in fact and not just with the developing countries,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

He also trivialized Bachelet’s finding that the country’s laws and policies to counter national security threats and illegal drugs have been crafted and implemented in ways that severely impact human rights, saying no country could claim a “perfect record” for human rights.

“No country can claim a perfect record as far as human rights is concerned. Again, benchmark should be the United States, I’ m sure the Special Rapporteur is on equality, have equally bad things to say about the United States. The Rapporteurs on the rights of refugees have equally bad things to say about Australia and don’t even mention countries like Israel ‘no. And of course, Europe now faces challenges as far as refugees coming from Africa are concerned,” he said.

Roque, however, pointed out that what mattered is that atrocities or acclaimed violations of human rights are being investigated and perpetrators are being punished.

“As far as the Philippines is concerned, (Justice) Secretary Menard Guevarra has said that in an effort improve our capacity to investigate and punish the perpetrators of human rights violators, we have created an inter-agency body headed by the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he said.

Speaking online before the UNHRC 44th session, Guevarra bared that the national government has created an inter-agency body that will look into the 5,655 deaths in the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Citing Guevarra, he said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also duty-bound to conduct an investigation even without complainants against its operations that resulted in deaths.

“I am confident having worked with the PNP Chief (Archie) Gamboa ‘no, that these are in fact being done by the PNP. But nonetheless, the inter-agency response is necessary to assure the country and the international community, of the impartiality of the investigation of these deaths arising from police operations,” Roque said.

Last June 2, Roque assured that there are no “draconian provisions” in the measure meant to beef up the country’s law against terrorism.

“Wala naman pong draconian na provision diyan. Lahat po ng provision diyan ay ibinase rin natin sa mga batas na mga iba’t ibang bansa na mas epektibo po ang kanilang pagtrato dito sa mga terorista (There is no draconian provision there. All of those provisions are based on laws of other countries that are effective in fighting terrorists),” he said.

Compared to anti-terrorism laws in other countries, Roque said the country’s current Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act 9372, which the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 aims to repeal, is the tamest.

Under the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days sans a warrant of arrest will be permitted. It also allows a 60-day surveillance with an allowable 30-day extension that can be conducted by the police or the military against the suspected terrorists.

The bill also imposes a 12-year jail term on a person who voluntarily or knowingly joins a terrorist organization.

Lawmakers, human rights groups, and celebrities have opposed the measure, saying it would further violate human rights. (PNA)