Lacson bill to give "more teeth" vs. terrorist acts, defend HR

In an apparent response to the bombing incident in Sultan Kudarat, Senator Panfilo Lacson has filed Senate Bill 1956 that seeks to give more teeth to the government’s fight against terrorism, while protectinf the civil and political rights of citizens.

His bill otherwise known as the "Anti-Terrorism Act of 2018," enhances the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9372) with provisions on foreign terrorists and additional predicate crimes.

Lacson, who played a key role in crafting RA 9372, noted that the current law has not been proving itself effective in addressing terrorism in the country.

“The occupation of Marawi City by the Maute Group in 2017 revealed the many loopholes of the current anti-terrorism law," he said, noting that the Philippines was ranked the 12th most affected by terrorism by the Global Terror Index in 2017.

Meanwhile, the former Philippine National Police chief-turned Senator said that the recent bombing incident in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat also “suggests that neither martial law nor the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) could guarantee peace in Mindanao.”

Tuesday’s incident in Isulan left three persons dead and over 30 others injured.

The explosion came less than a month after an explosion tore into a van at a military checkpoint in Basilan on July 31, killing 10 people.

"While an anti-terror law in itself cannot solve the problem of terrorism, an intensified one can however give the government and the law enforcement agencies the much-needed tool in dealing with the emerging threats of terrorism," Lacson said.

Under the bill, Lacson said the term "terrorist acts" is used instead of "terrorism" to remove the requirement of "the acts being perpetrated for the purpose of coercing the government to give in to a specific demand."

"This has the effect of punishing the act of committing crimes that sow widespread extraordinary fear and panic, and not the purpose behind the commission of such acts," he said.

The bill also penalizes foreign terrorists, including those who travel to a state other than their state of residence for committing or organizing terrorist acts, and those residing abroad who come to the Philippines in transit to commit or take part in terrorist acts to target countries.

“But the bill makes it clear that terrorist acts shall exclude legitimate exercises of the freedom of expression and right to peaceably assemble where a person does not have the intention to use or urge the use of force or violence or cause harm to others,” Lacson said.

SB 1956 also adds three predicate crimes to the 12 in the present law -- RA 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003; RA 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; and RA 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The bill punishes those recruiting another person to serve in or with an armed force in a foreign state, publishing an ad or propaganda, and other acts with the intention of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with such armed forces.

It penalizes as well the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, proposal to commit terrorist acts, and inciting to commit terrorist acts - which are punishable by life imprisonment without parole.

Accomplices to terrorist acts may face imprisonment of 17 to 20 years, while accessories face imprisonment of 10 to 12 years.

Other salient provisions of the bill include the banning of surveillance operations on suspected terrorists without a valid judicial order, penalizing the destruction of records pertaining to the surveillance, penalizing unauthorized revelation of classified information, and penalizing the furnishing of false or spurious evidence, among others.

“The Commission on Human Rights shall give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons in relation to the implementation of this Act,” Lacson said. ( with reports from PNA)