Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (File photo)

MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said fears that the newly-enacted Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11479) is unconstitutional and could trample on people’s rights are unfounded.

“We maintain that the fears of these petitioners are unfounded. But we leave the final determination to the SC (Supreme Court) if it is constitutional or not,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters Monday.

The law, which gives more teeth to the government’s fight against terrorism and violent extremism, has been questioned by critics, including several petitions before the SC.

While it took effect last July 18, Lorenzana said they would wait for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), to be crafted by the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Department of Justice, before the law can be implemented.

Meantime, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos, said petitioners have all the right to go to the courts.

“It is up to SC now to evaluate but we believe that there is nothing in the law that will defeat the people’s rights,” he said in a statement Monday.

Santos said that only the people involved in terrorism have reason to fear the new law.

“Only those who are in the business of committing terrorist acts as contained in the law should be afraid. Law-abiding citizens should not,” he added.

It seeks the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days sans a warrant of arrest.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson, author of the measure, credited President Rodrigo Duterte for his strong political will in signing the “landmark legislation” that seeks to boost the country’s drive against terrorism.

It also allows a 60-day surveillance with an allowable 30-day extension that can be conducted by the police or the military against suspected terrorists.

The law also imposes a 12-year jail term on a person who voluntarily or knowingly joins a terrorist organization. (PNA)