Bangsamoro Parliament has yet to act on resolution expressing “grave concern” over proposed Anti-Terrorism Act

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June) –  The interim Bangsamoro Parliament has yet to act on a proposed resolution expressing “grave concern” over the passage of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The proposed resolution states that they view the proposed law with “grave concern” because “stories and experiences of the Bangsamoro People, particularly on their decades-long struggle for peace, provide evidence that counter-terrorism strategies with no or limited regard for human rights cannot win the ideological battle against terrorism, nor can it suppress violent extremism.”

The Parliament in session under the “new normal” at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex. Photo courtesy of the Bangsamoro Government

The proposed resolution was initiated by Member of Parliament (MP) and Minority Leader Laisa Maluhud but it mustered a mixed authorship of six majority and six minority members when filed and numbered as Proposed Resolution 239, with Cabinet Ministers Mohagher Iqbal and Abdulraof Macacua among the authors from the majority.

The four other co-authors from the majority are MPs Eddie Alih, Muslimin Jakilan, Jamel Macaraya and Abdulmuhmin Mujahid while those  from the minority aside from Alamia are Rasol Mitmug, Baintan Adil-Ampatuan, Rasul Ismael, Don Mustapha Loong and Amilbahar Mawallil.

Iqbal was chair of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who signed a peace pact with the government — the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro —  on March 27, 2014 after 17 years of negotiations. He is now  Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and co-chair with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, in the Inter-Governmental Relations Body.

Macacua, now Minister of Environment and Executive Secretary, was Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who was then known by his nom de guerre, Sammy Gambar. Decommissioning of the BIAF’s firearms and combatants is ongoing, in accordance with the peace agreement and RA 11054, the Organic Law for the BARMM.

Alamia was former Executive Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the BARMM’s predecessor, and was its first chair of the Regional Human Rights Commission.

Concerns of the Moros

The proposed resolution states that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the 80-member body that serves as the Bangsamoro Government during the three-year transition period until June 30, 2022, “represents the concerns of the Moros, especially in the conflict-affected population, who have fallen victim to terrorist attacks and human rights violations.”

It said it supports the national government’s initiative to strengthen the law to prevent, prohibit, counter and penalize terrorism but noted that an effective counter-terrorism law “must be evidence-based and intended to respond to the actual evil sought to be prevented or penalized with provisions that do not encroach on fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.”

It added that the proposed law must also “clearly establish conduct that is lawful from unlawful to avert any misinterpretation and arbitrary, and discriminatory enforcement in its implementation, giving individuals adequate notice of their legal obligations so that they can govern their behavior accordingly.”

The proposed resolution notes that what Congress passed not only contains provisions that could easily be questioned for constitutionality, overbreadth and vagueness “but also lacks adequate measures to ensure its insusceptibility to abuse and/or human rights violations.”

It cited the following provisions: sanctioning warrantless arrests outside of the limitations allowed by the Rules of court and allowing wire-tapping of private conversations/communications upon ex parte application before the Court of Appeal  and without an opportunity for the “suspect” to prevent counter-veiling evidence at any stage of the proceedings; detention of suspects for 14 to 24 days without a valid commitment order from the courts, and unilateral designation of persons or groups “as terrorist” by the Anti-Terrorism Council, consisting of members appointed by the executive and lack of remedies to question such designation before the courts.

“Such provisions, once enacted, could be counterproductive as it could instill fear or compound resentment among our peoples,” the proposed resolution states.

Order of Business

Proposed Resolution 239 was included in Thursday’s Order of Business and it was supposed to be the second resolution to be discussed in the plenary but the body agreed to discuss first  proposed Resolution 240 to amend the rules to allow the conduct of plenary sessions and committee hearings through teleconference, video conference, or other reliable forms of remote or electronic means.

The resolution would allow MPs who were not present in the session hall at the Shariff Kabungsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City, to participate in the sessions from where they are  in their respective areas.

The proposed Resolution 240 was passed with amendments. The other measure passed was proposed Resolution 223 with amendments and in consolidation with 241, commending frontliners in the Bangsamoro region “for their altruistic services in the fight against COVID-19.”

The next session is on Tuesday, June 23.

The enrolled bill on the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, was sent to Malacanang on June 9.  The bill awaits the President’s signature.  He has 30 days to sign or veto it. If no action is taken within this period, it will lapse into law.

Chief Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo on June 12 said that after a “careful and thoughtful review of the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” he recommended to the President to sign the bill into law, after a “careful and thoughtful review of the Anti-Terrorism Bill,”

The Department of Justice on Wednesday submitted its review of the Anti-Terrorism bil to Malacanang.

“We have scrutinized the enrolled bill line by line and analyzed the substance of each provision in relation to the whole, always keeping in mind for whom and against whom the anti-terror bill was crafted,” CNN Philippines quoted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as saying.

“To the extent possible, we have considered the operational needs of the government in dealing with terrorism as well as our international commitments, without losing sight of the legal and constitutional parameters within which all state actions should be circumscribed,” Guevarra said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)