Anti-terrorism bill passed by Congress, now awaits Duterte signature

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — The signature of President Rodrigo Duterte is the only thing missing before the controversial measure allowing the detention of suspected terrorists without a warrant for up to 24 days is enacted into law.

The House of Representatives during its last regular session on Friday adopted Senate Bill 1083, or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed by the upper chamber in February. Critics of the measure have said it relaxes safeguards on human rights.

The House is adopting the Senate Bill as amendment to its own version that was approved on Wednesday. This means Congress would no longer have to convene a bicameral conference committee to send a reconciled version to the President.

The proposed measure, certified by Duterte as urgent, will repeal Human Security Act of 2007 by giving more surveillance powers to the government forces.

Although Duterte is expected to enact the controversial measure, his spokesman assured that it will be subject to final review before deciding on whether to sign it or not.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also denied allegations that the bill was railroaded, saying it has been pending in Congress since 2018.

The proposed law defines a terrorist as anyone who participates in any activity which endangers a person’s life, causes damage or destruction to a government facility or private property, develops or possesses explosive devices or weapons, and releases any weapons of destruction.

The police and the military can now track down suspected individuals or organizations and record discussions or communications supposedly regarding terrorism.

Once enacted into law, suspected terrorists can be detained without a warrant of arrest to up to 14 days and that period may be extended by another 10 days. Anyone who threatens to commit terrorism, perform, or incite others to do any such act also will be penalized with an imprisonment of 12 years.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the constitutionality of certain provisions can immediately be questioned in the Supreme Court once Duterte signs the bill it into law.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said they are ready to take their case to the high court, arguing that the measure poses threats against progressive groups, who previously faced "red-tagging" from state forces.