The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will allow the government to cut sources of financial and logistical support for communist terrorist groups, Philippine Army commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said Wednesday.
In an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel, Gapay said the proposed law would enable the government to cut the umbilical cord that enabled communist terror groups such as the New People’s Army (NPA) to continue operating.
Gapay added that the New People’s Army (NPA) is well within the definition of terrorism in the proposed measure as they have killed civilians and uniformed personnel using treachery and violence.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., meanwhile, said the measure is not targeting any specific group.
“The proposed law is not targeting any specific organization, group, or individual. But if any of them commits an act or acts which are included in the definition of terrorism, then they will be prosecuted and penalized under the proposed law,” Santos said in a statement.
The statements in support of the bill from the military come amid growing calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to junk the measure, which is widely seen as a threat to civil liberties.
The bill, certified by President Rodrigo Duterte as urgent, has been passed by Congressand merely awaits the Chief Executive’s signature to become a law.
But in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the growing calls for the government to junk the anti-terror measure would push the President to review provisions of the bill.
“Let’s just say that the public interest on the bill will make the President review the provisions of the bill even closer,” Roque said.
Roque confirmed that a copy of the bill was transmitted to Malacañang on Tuesday and that the legal department of the Office of the Executive Secretary has started reviewing its provisions.
He also emphasized the role of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which was tasked by the Palace to review the bill amid allegations by some groups that it contained unconstitutional provisions.
Under the anti-terrorism bill, persons who threaten to commit terrorism, and those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism will suffer imprisonment of 12 years if convicted.
Suspected persons can be detained for up to 24 days without a warrant of arrest, and police or the military can put suspected terrorists under surveillance for 60 days, with a 30-day extension.
The opposition and leftist groups have strongly opposed the passage of the measure over concerns that it would further erode human rights in the country.
On Wednesday, the Commission on Human Rights welcomed the reminder of Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa to his fellow police officers to strictly observe their social media protocols.
Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia warned that defiance would be meted out with administrative and even criminal charges.
“Duty bearers, like members of the law enforcement, are bound by high standards of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their mandate. Similarly, official communication platforms such as social media accounts must be utilized primarily as tools for disseminating accurate and reliable information to the public, particularly at this moment that our country is still battling with COVID-19,” she said.
In the sea of disinformation online, social media content of government offices must only forward genuine public interest and must never be used to malign any individual or cause any harm to anyone with baseless accusations, she said.
A total of 20 lawmakers reportedly withdrew their “yes” votes on the anti-terrorism bill, human rights organization Karapatan said on Wednesday.
“This is a big and unprecedented number. There is a visible and growing clamor to junk the anti-terrorism bill, and yet the rubber stamp Congress has now sneakily transmitted the bill to Malacañang yesterday, June 9, serving it on a bloody silver platter, just awaiting the President’s signature,” the group said in a statement.
The rights group called for the bill to be junked.
“Once again, the Duterte administration has decided to pull its puppet strings in the Senate and the House of Representatives through Senator President Vicente Sotto and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in order to further railroad its passage,” the group said in a statement.
“This is a blatant mockery of legislative independence and democratic checks and balances.”
Also on Wednesday, police said a labor leader with alleged links to the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA was arrested in Caduha-an, Cadiz City Tuesday night.
Police said the suspect, Gaspar Davao, 55, is said to be a high-ranking official of the Northern Negros Front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army..
Davao was on board a public utility van when he was arrested by local police and members of the 79th Infantry Brigade.
He was arrested for allegedly violating the city ordinance which requires the wearing of face masks.
Police said they found a fragmentation grenade, anti-government documents, P14,000 in cash and eight mobile phones on Davao. With PNA