MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday appealed to critics of the anti-terrorism law to set aside politics and instead help the national government on its continuous fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they should be a concerted effort to prioritize the pandemic instead of using the controversial law to put President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration in a bad light.

“Uulitin ko lang ang panawagan ni Presidente, isantabi muna po natin ang pulitika. May panahon po para sa lahat, ngayon po tutukan po muna natin ang Covid-19 (I will repeat the appeal of the President, set aside politics. There is a time for everything, now is a time to focus on Covid-19),” he said in a virtual presser.

Roque said the public can express their discontent in the administration by voting during the next elections.

He also reassured that the anti-terrorism law only goes after terrorists and that it has enough safeguards to prevent human rights abuses.

“Lahat po ng aabuso sa batas na iyan ay mayroon pa ring pagkakakulong ‘no at bukod pa po diyan ay nandiyan naman po ang ating mga hukuman (All abuses in the implementation of the law will meet imprisonment and besides that, there are judges),” he said.

Roque said legal remedies are available such as the writ of habeas which can be used to secure the release of a person who is being unlawfully detained and writ of amparo which can be used if a person’s right to life, liberty and security has been violated or under threat are also in place.

On the issue of designating individuals and groups as terrorists, Roque said the law has adopted resolutions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

“Dito po sa mga UN Security Council resolution, lalung-lalo na doon sa mga nagbabawal doon sa mga pagpasabog, nagkaroon po ng depenisyon na ang terorismo raw po ay kahit anong bagay na nagkakalat ng takot at kalituhan at panic sa general public. At ito naman pong depenisyon na ito ay in-adopt po ng ating Anti-Terror Law at ng mga batas sa iba’t iba pang mga bansa (Here in the UN Security Council resolution, especially on prohibiting bombings, there is a definition that terrorism is anything that can be defined as anything that can spread fear, confusion, and panic to the general public. This is the definition adopted by our anti-terror law and other laws from other countries),” he said.

Several petitions challenging the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law have been filed before the Supreme Court (SC).

Last July 5, Roque said the Palace will leave it to the SC to decide on these petitions and will abide by whatever the ruling is.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 or Republic Act (RA) 11479, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, repeals the Human Security of 2007.

Under the law, suspected terrorists can be detained up to 24 days without the filing of any charges.

The law states that acts intended to cause death or serious injury to any person, extensive damage to a government facility, and extensive interference with destruction to critical infrastructure are likewise considered as terrorist acts.

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. (PNA)