Fear of abuse not valid reason to reject anti-terror bill

Fear of abuse not valid reason to reject anti-terror bill
Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez

Fear of abuse of law should not be a valid reason to reject important measures seeking to address terrorism which should be preventive rather than reactive, Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez said Wednesday, as she defended anew the proposed anti-terrorism bill which recently hurdled Congress.

Torres-Gomez said the proposed measure is not asking for changes on judicial authority, as power remains in the courts.

“It is still the court (which will) order the warrant and the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council) is deputizing a law enforcement officer to pursue a probable cause based on the rule of hot pursuit,” Torres-Gomez said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) Headstart.

Torres-Gomez said there is a need to measure which risk weighs heavier on the people, “the risk of the wrongful arrest or the risk of a terror attack actually happening.”

She said terrorism is the highest crime against humanity.

“I don’t think it is right to not pursue or to not go after the suspect — if he is suspected of the crime of terrorism,” she said. “Not that I prefer the risk of wrongful arrest, I’m just saying that if wrongful arrest just happens, that person has legal recourse — but when a terror attack has been carried out, the damage is irreversible.”

Torres-Gomez called on critics of the bill to read the measure thoroughly, citing gains the Philippines would reap once it is enacted into law.

“We have to read the bill with the right target in mind. This is a bill that aims to break terrorists to justice, this isn’t about making life difficult to activists,” she said.

Safeguards in place

Torres-Gomez said the fear that a bill can be abused or the law can be abused is not unfounded.

“We have seen how laws have been abused in the years — not just under the reign of President [Rodrigo] Duterte but even the reigns of other presidents,” she said, noting that the fear of abuse is not a valid reason to reject a bill outright.

“It’s not a valid reason to reject needed legislation like the anti-terrorism bill because theoretically speaking, all laws can be abused, even social welfare laws that are very benign and charitable they can be abused. That is why, there are safeguards in place to prevent those abuse from happening,” she added.

Torres-Gomez said the provision under Section 18 of the Human Security Act is written exactly in Section 29 of the anti-terrorism bill.

“That part is already how it is written in the human security act and it’s only now — if it is subject to misinterpretation, it should have been uproar 13 years ago. How come everyone was silent about it and it’s only now they have taken it to mean a different thing when it’s written in exactly the same way,” she said.

“In the Human Security Act, it was a dead letter law. We did not have a measure to prevent terrorism. It was all innocent until proven guilty. By that time, it does not apply to a crime like terrorism because if we use that argument, wala na, na-detonate na yung bomb (there’s no point, the bomb is already detonated,” she added.

Malacañang earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has no problem with the provision of the anti-terrorism bill that allows a 14-day pre-trial detention for suspected terrorists

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said although the President has yet to read the controversial measure himself, he saw nothing wrong with the provision that allows a 14-day pre-trial detention period because it does not change the provision in the 1987 Constitution that a judge would issue a warrant of arrest if there is “probable cause.”Source: Lade Jean Kabagani / (PNA)

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