Journalists exempt from disclosing info under Anti-Terror Act

Pimentel said this is “one of 89 amendments” to Senate Bill 2137 which Senator Juan Ponce Enrile accepted. He said about 95% of his proposed amendments were accepted by Enrile.

In exempting journalists, Pimentel invoked Section 4 of the Bill of Rights: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

He said the amendment means that information furnished to journalists about the whereabouts of terrorists in connection with stories they have written could not be subject to compulsory disclosure.

“In fact, there is more reason to exempt the correspondences, messages and records of journalists from being monitored, bugged and recorded or subpoenaed for use under legal compunction in investigation or terrorist trials that the communications between doctors and patients,” he said.

Pimentel also noted the concern raised by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the United States that “if any journalist strongly and legitimately suspects that his or her communications with a source are being intercepted by a third party, that journalist simply cannot promise confidentiality in good faith to an international source when that source could face torture or death if the communications is revealed…”

Another major amendment to SB 2137 already adopted by the Senate is the reduction of the period of detention of terror suspects without court warrants from 15 days to not more than three days in conformity with the Constitution.

Senators Frank Drilon and Miriam Santiago had earlier recommended the reduction from 15 to five days but Pimentel said Article VII section 18 provides that during the

suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, any person arrested or detained for rebellion shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

“The three-day period during which a person may be detained without charges even during a rebellion or invasion, is a constitutional demarcation line that must not be breached,” he said.

Pimentel said that a related amendment would require law enforcers to immediately bring before any judge, Commission on Human Rights official or justice of the Sanidganbayan or Court of Appeals any person arrested by them on charges or suspicion of terrorism before he or she is detained, to discourage abuse or physical maltreatment of the suspect.

Other major amendments include compensating persons wrongfully arrested and detained on anti-terrorism charges at  P500,000 for every day of detention; creating a grievance committee headed by the Ombudsman, one each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, before which people harassed by law enforcers on charges of terrorism may complain and get redress for their grievances. (MindaNews)