MANILA: The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the people, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa said Tuesday.
“I don’t suppose that the legislature, the branch of government who takes care of formulating the law will craft it without safety nets. I think these have safety nets and the public is there to watch,” Gamboa said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
He added that the passage of the bill is not tantamount to a martial law scenario and that critics can question the measure before the courts.
“First, hindi pa siya nagiging batas (it is not a law yet). Second, we will wait for the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) para natin matingnan kung (for us to be able to look) what’s in it for the PNP and what’s in it for the public,” Gamboa said.
He added that the PNP would always operate in compliance with the law and will observe all necessary procedures.
Meanwhile, he said the eight protesters in a rally against the proposed measure at the University of the Philippines-Cebu were arrested due to disobedience to authority.
“Parang (It seemed) they really try the tolerance of police to some extent. Sobra na ginagawa nila (They are going too far) which is tantamount to disobedience that’s why we caused the arrest,” said Gamboa.
While stressing the right to assemble protests under Batas Pambansa 880, Gamboa said the situation is different now as the country battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Gamboa, meanwhile, urged the public to air their sentiments and expression through various means aside from holding mass gatherings.
On Monday, the protesters were ordered released without bail by a Cebu court.
The bill only needs President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature to become a law after it was transmitted to Malacañang by Congress on Tuesday.
The bill introduced provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; possess objects connected with the preparation for the commission of terrorism; or collect or make documents connected with the preparation of terrorism.
Under the bill, any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.
Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall suffer imprisonment of 12 years.
Under the bill, the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.
(PNA/ Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/ SRNY/ RSP)