THE VOTE: The measure does not only countenance, but actually seeks to legitimize, acts that are clearly violative of our Constitution.

 [Rep. Lawrence Fortun, 1st district of Agusan del Norte, explains via Zoom, his “No” vote to HB 6875  (the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020), at the House of Representatives’ session  on 3 June 2020]

Mr. Speaker, may mga iilang nag text at nag message sa akin kahapon, nagssabing “Salamat, Cong. Lawrence na ikaw ay nagwithdraw bilang author ng Anti-Terror Bill.

Ang sabi ko naman po sa kanila, salamat din po na pareho ang ating paninidigan sa panukalang ito. Ngunit mali pong inyong sabihin na ako ay nagwithdraw bilang author nito. Hindi po ako nag withdraw dahil unang una, hindi naman po ako naging author ng panukalang ito kahit kailan.

Agusan del Norte 2nd district Rep. Lawrence H. Fortun explains via Zoom his “No” vote to HB 6875 during the House of Representatives’ session on 03 June 2020. Screengrabbed from livestreamed session

The inclusion of my name as author was a mistake, an honest inadvertence of the committee staff. And I thank the Committee on Rules for correcting that mistake and removing my name as author of the measure.

I could not have joined as co-author of this measure, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that in our fight against terrorism, or lawlessness and disorder, it is essential to ensure that basic and fundamental rights and freedoms are preserved and protected.  The Declaration of Policy of this measure emphasizes preservation and protection of life, liberty and property and the rights and welfare of our people. Regrettably, however, the unconstitutional and ambiguous provisions of this measure will defeat, rather than serve, its own declaration of policy.

I shudder to think of the legitimization of unconstitutional actions. Section 29 allows detention of 14 days, extendible by another 10 days, without any judicial charge, should the Anti-Terrorism Council deem it necessary. That is so wide a latitude even the courts of justice don’t have. Biro mo naman, Mr. Speaker, wala ka pang kaso, wala pang sapat na ebidensyang pinipresenta, maaari ka nang ikulong ng halos isang buwan na hindi nangamgailangan ng kahit anong order mula sa hukuman. This is without doubt an illegal deprivation of liberty and blatant usurpation of judicial functions. And this is a gross violation fundamental rights against unlawful arrest and unreasonable searches and seizures provided for under Article III Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution.

Article III Section 2 thereof provides “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inviolable, and no warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Mr. Speaker, even during times when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, the Constitution only allows detention of a maximum of 72 hours. Article VII Section 18 states: “During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

Equally dangerous and alarming, Mr. Speaker, is that this measure seeks to punish by imprisonment of 12 years mere membership in what may be branded as terrorist organization. And because terrorist acts as defined under this measure  is too broad, and vague, legitimate organizations face the danger of being branded as terrorist groups or allied with terrorist organizations.

Sec 9 of this measure, Mt. Speaker, is unreasonably broad and can be unduly utilized as a weapon to curtail freedom of the press,of expression, and dissent. Ang sabi ng ating saligang batas: No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Ito ay napakahalagang karapatan ng ating mga mamamayan na hindi natin maaaring hayaang maisantabi, o pagbawalan o harangin sa ano mang kaparaanan.

Mr. Speaker, the ambiguity of several provisions of this measure and the removal of constitutional parameters on law enforcement expose this measure to abuse. The civil and political rights and the fundamental freedoms of our people are gravely threatened. The measure does not only countenance, but actually seeks to legitimize, acts that are clearly violative of our Constitution.

For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I cannot i  conscience support this measure. i vote NO!

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

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