MANILA – Members of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) are set to meet to review the newly-signed anti-terrorism law to ensure they have a common understanding of the Republic Act 11479 and craft its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is also vice chair of the ATC, bared that these will be among the first tasks which will be carried out by the powerful body that formulates and adopts plans against terrorists and terrorism in the country.
“Kailangan bago tayo makapag-action patungkol diyan sa mga isinasaad ng ating bagong batas, Anti-Terrorism Law, ay kailangan gumawa muna tayo ng implementing rules and guidelines (Before we take any action stipulated in the new law, we need to create the implementing rules and guidelines),” he said in a Laging Handa public briefing on Saturday.
Once crafted, he said the IRR will be submitted to Congress, whose members will make up a Joint Oversight Committee.
The Committee will have the authority to summon law enforcement or military officers and members of the ATC to answer questions and submit written reports on the implementation of the law.
Esperon said the ATC would soon identify initial individuals and organizations to be included in the government’s list of terrorists.
He said the ATC would start designating terrorists in accordance with resolutions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
“Ang unang gagawin natin ay titingnan natin kung ano iyong mga nandoon na sa listahan ng United Nations Security Council. Tayo ay sumusunod sa mga natuklasan na ng United Nations Security Council at iyong bagong opisina ng United Nations Office for Counterterrorism (The first thing we will do is to check what’s on the list of the UNSC. We are following what the UNSC and the new United Nations Office for Counterterrorism have discovered),” he said.
He said the names of individuals and organizations on the list of the UNSC and the UNOC will immediately be placed in their own list of terrorists.
After making a list, Esperon said the Justice Secretary, a member of the ATC, would petition the Court of Appeals to declare these individuals and organizations as terrorists.
He said the court could give preliminary approval of proscription declaring an individual or organization a terrorist and hold hearings for up to six months before issuing a final ruling.
The next step, he said, would be to seek permission from the appeals court to conduct up to 60 days of surveillance of proscribed individuals and organizations.
Matter of necessity
Amid calls to prevent the enforcement of the law, Esperon, a former military chief-of-staff, stressed that “it’s a matter of necessity.”
“Itong batas na ito ay talagang kailangan ng bansa (This law is really needed in our country). It’s a matter of necessity. Huwag nating kakalimutan iyong mga nakaraan na mga pangyayari na gawa ng mga terorista (Let’s not forget the past acts committed by terrorists),” he said.
Esperon said President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s first leader from Mindanao, wanted nothing more than to deter terrorism.
“Huwag nating kalilimutan ang mga ito, ito na ngayon ang pag-asa natin. Ito ang ating gagamitin against terrorism (Let’s not forget that this is our hope. This is what we are going to use against terrorism),” he said.
To allay fears of abuse, Esperon assured that terrorist acts are not “ordinary killings or destruction of properties” but those whose purpose is “to intimidate the general public or cause disorder.”
“So ano ang kinakatakot nila? Itong ating law-abiding citizen ay walang dapat ikatakot dahil itong Anti-Terrorism Law ay para sa kapakanan at para sa seguridad ng mga law-abiding citizens (So what are they afraid of? Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear because the law is for the welfare and security of law-abiding citizens),” he said.
He also assured that the law would not be used to quash dissent and opposition.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which Duterte signed on July 3, aims to protect life, liberty and property from terrorism.
It also states that individuals who either use weapons, explosives, and chemical weapons or release dangerous substances causing fire, floods, or explosions are considered terrorists.
A 12-year imprisonment will be meted on any person who threatens to commit any of the terror acts mentioned in the law.
People who propose to commit or join terror acts are also punishable by 12-year jail term, the law reads. (PNA)