By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent
To combat terrorism in the Philippines without the need to impose Martial Law, the country’s security officials want Congress to amend the 11-year old Human Security Act to give more teeth to the law.
During the Senate Public Order committee hearing on the proposed amendments on the Human Security Act chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, security officials said suspected terrorists should be detained by 30 days “even without a warrant of arrest” instead of just three days under the prevailing law.
Under the Human Security Act, suspected terrorists “may not be detained for more than three days without the written approval of a municipal, city, provincial or regional official of a Human Rights Commission or judge of the municipal, regional trial court, the Sandiganbayan or a justice of the Court of Appeals nearest the place of the arrest.”
The same law also provides that in the event that an arrest is made during Saturdays, Sundays, holidays or after office hours, the arresting police or law enforcement personnel must bring the person arrested to the residence of any of the aforementioned officials nearest to the place of arrest.
The law further states that the approval in writing of any of the said officials should be secured by the police or law enforcement personnel concerned within five days after the date of the detention of the persons concerned.
Armed Forces Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. cited the need for 30 days for detention of suspected terrorists.
“We see that if we will be able to capture the bomber, in a week, we won’t get anything.
Normally, based on our experience, the suspect (will) break…in two to three weeks. In the case of Isulan (bombings in the last two months), we already captured the supposed bomber but because of very permissive law, the bomber were able to be released from detention,” he said.
He also said that 30 days is also a preemptive measure because terrorists do subsequent attacks.
The 30 days, he stressed, will also serve as a disruptive period for the terrorists, give us time to gather counter intelligence, determine if the terrorist is a lone wolf or they are a pack of wolves.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Office-in-charge Eduardo Año, a former military chief, said 30 days will be enough for the security forces to conduct all “intensive investigation to follow up operations and do counter actions.”
“We do not need to maximize the 30 days. A terror attack can be neutralized within 30 days. Thirty days would just give the security forces a guarantee to be able to do their jobs properly,” said Año.
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana stressed on the need for stringent measures like in Australia instead of implementing martial law to address terrorism.
“So that I said let us not use martial law but give more teeth to our security agencies,” he said.
National Security adviser Hermogenes Esperon also related that by “mere suspicion” in Australia, suspects could be detained for as long as seven days or more.
“In our country, I don’t know how this came about that, we could have martial law but we could only detain suspects in three days,” he said.
Esperon and Sen. Vicente Sotto III are pushing for the amendment of the Human Security Act to remove the law’s provision penalizing law enforcement agencies PHP 500,000 a day for the false prosecution of individuals for terrorism.
Section 41 of the Human Security Act states that upon “acquittal or the dismissal of the charges against (a person arrested on terror charges), the amount of Five hundred thousand pesos a day for the period in which his properties, assets or funds were seized shall be paid to him on the concept of liquidated damages. The amount shall be taken from the appropriations of the police or law enforcement agency that caused the filing of the enumerated charges against him/her.”
Sotto, for his part, contended there is no need for such a provision, saying that those who are falsely prosecuted and wrongfully detained can sue the government under existing laws.
“Why do we need this provision? May habol naman sila sa gobyerno eh. Why are we scaring our enforcers (with this provision)? Meron ng mga angkop na batas para diyan,” Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Lacson recommended that definition for a terrorist be modified because a terrorist does not necessarily coerce the government to his or her demands as provided for under the Human Security Act.
Under the existing Human Security Act, terrorism is defined as any person who commits an act punishable under any of the following provisions of the Revised Penal Code:
Article 122 (Piracy in General and Mutiny in the High Seas or in the Philippine Waters);
Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection);
Article 134-a (Coup d’ etat), including acts committed by private persons;
Article 248 (Murder);
Article 267 (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention);
Article 324 (Crimes Involving Destruction), or under
1. Presidential Decree No. 1613 (The Law on Arson);
2. Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990);
3. Republic Act No. 5207, (Atomic Energy Regulatory and Liability Act of 1968);
4. Republic Act No. 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law);
5. Presidential Decree No. 532 (Anti-Piracy and Anti-Highway Robbery Law of 1974); and,
6. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended (Decree Codifying the Laws on Illegal and Unlawful Possession, Manufacture, Dealing in, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunition or Explosives)
….thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
“We need to simply define it as someone who commits the act of terrorism and who has the intent to commit an act of terrorism. That is practical and logical. Because a terrorist does not always have to coerce the government to certain demands,” said Lacson, adding that the present definition is so limited.
He noted that the country is still reeling from the Marawi siege last year wherein ISIS inspired terrorists held the Islamic City of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur for five months, leaving over a hundred soldiers, at least 47 civilians and around 800 terrorists dead; and 500,000 people displaced. Total damage had been estimated at least PHP 51 billion.
National Intelligence Coordinating Agency NICA Director Gen. Alex Paul Monteagudo also agreed that the Philippines has the weakest anti-terrorism law in the region.
“Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are much less affected by terrorism. But the Philippines, which is the most affected country in the region, has the weakest law and it’s now one of the reasons why we’re attracting foreign terrorist fighters from other countries…” the NICA head pointed out.