3-day detention period for suspected terrorists more than enough, solon argues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7)— An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday refuted some government officials’ claims that the country would need a longer detention period to eliminate terrorist threats, as he argued that the three-day timeline under the old law should be “more than enough” jail time for suspects.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of those who filed petitions before the Supreme Court against the recently-signed anti-terrorism law, said law enforcers and intelligence officers should have already started the case buildup— including gathering of evidence— against suspected terrorists and groups way before they are apprehended.

“The case of a terrorist should be even long before detention, it should have already been built up,” Lagman said in an interview with The Source.

“Under the old law, any arrest should be based on prior surveillance. Even before suspected terrorists (are) apprehended, the police, intelligence should already have a background of these terrorists. Three days would be more than sufficient,” he stressed.

Security officials and lawmakers have defended the new measure’s highly contested detention period provision, which allows suspects to be arrested without warrant and detained without charges for up to 24 days.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, in an earlier interview with CNN Philippines, said the new protocol would give way for a thorough probe on cases, citing that the country also has a shorter detention timeline compared to other nations.

Lagman pointed out that the government should have already come up with a “wanted” list for terrorist suspects, in order to speed up the hunt for the said individuals and groups.

He added that the provisions of the measure should be crafted in line with the current situation in the Philippines— and not from experiences of other countries.

“The standard should be our own Constitution— not the policy of other countries. The standard should be based on our heritage of democratic institutions, not the experience of other countries,” the Congressman said.

No assurance?

A number of government officials have repeatedly brushed off concerns over some provisions of the measure, saying that citizens have enough safeguards under the Constitution, and that their rights will be protected.

However, Lagman said these statements do not guarantee that the measure will not be abused in the future.

“No amount of assurances that there will be a faithful implementation of the law will mitigate the incidence of abuses,” Lagman argued.

The lawmaker was one of the many petitioners who brought their case to the high court on Monday, as they aim to challenge the legality of the anti-terrorism law.

Lagman said the measure is “replete with constitutional infirmities,” reiterating that it may be used to silence critics and suppress freedom of expression.

Atty. Howard Calleja, part of the group of lawyers who filed the first petition against the measure, likewise raised alarm over the “broad” definition of terrorism, noting that “anybody” can be tagged as a terrorist if the council says so.

READ: Defense chief: Give anti-terrorism law a chance