PH version of anti-terrorism law ‘most conservative,’ says Sotto

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20)— The Philippines’ version of the anti-terrorism law is the “most conservative” among other security measures in the world, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Monday amid concerns on the measure’s implementation.

“The other countries, they’re stricter than ours, ‘yung atin ang pinaka-conservative (ours is the most conservative),” Sotto told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Sotto said it is only the country which has come up with a safeguard provision that compels an arresting officer to inform the nearest court as well as the Commission on Human Rights regarding a case.

As such, he urged foreigners— particularly lawmakers from the United States— to focus and review their own “harsher” laws instead of “picking” on the Philippines’ situation.

“These U.S. Congressmen must investigate their Homeland Security Law… Why are these Congressmen not centering their laws that they have? Why pick on the Philippines, when we (have) the most conservative anti-terror law in the world? They want us to remain as the haven of terrorists?” Sotto questioned.

Around 45 US lawmakers earlier urged the Philippine government to repeal the controversial measure, believing that it is vulnerable to being "weaponized against people" who will express dissent towards the government.

Malacanang, however, dismissed these claims, stressing the country has a “working judicial” system that can decide on the constitutionality of the law.

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The anti-terrorism law formally took effect on Saturday, or 15 days after its publication on July 3. The Philippine National Police said authorities are still in the preparation stage for its implementation, as they await the release of the implementing rules and regulations.

The measure, which repealed the Human Security Act of 2007, will give more surveillance powers to government forces. It will also implement stricter penalties for suspected terrorists— including longer detention periods of up to 24 days with arrest warrants or charges.