Once a primary author, Biazon withdraws support, votes no to anti-terror bill

Mara Cepeda
Once a primary author, Biazon withdraws support, votes no to anti-terror bill
His reason? The House leadership did not allow any lawmaker to propose amendments to the bill that is an exact replica of what senators had passed

MANILA, Philippines – Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon was the first lawmaker in the House to file the anti-terrorism bill way back in July 2019.

Almost a year later, Biazon not only withdrew his authorship but also voted against the same measure he had strongly lobbied for. 

In a surprise move, Biazon thumbed down House Bill (HB) No. 6875 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on Wednesday, June 3, just a day after he defended during plenary debates the bill feared would be used by the government to clamp down on dissenters. (READ: ‘Draconian’ anti-terror bill, feared to be used vs gov’t critics, hurdles Congress)

“I believe that we should stand up for the House and because of this, my vote is no to the bill, and my name could not be attached to a bill that is not my real work. So my withdrawal as author of the measure is another thing I would like to present to the House,” Biazon said as he explained his negative vote. 

“I defended the bill with all my mind, but my heart was divided,” he added.

His reason for withdrawing support? The House leadership did not allow any lawmaker to make amendments to the bill – an exact replica of the one the Senate had passed in February – during the period of amendments in the plenary. 

“Ako po ay nananatiling naniniwala na kailangan natin ng isang anti-terrorism bill. Hindi ho lahat ng mga nagsalita laban sa bill na ito ay aking sinasang-ayunan (I still believe in the need for an anti-terrorism bill. I do not agree with all of those who spoke up against this bill)…. But as a matter of principle, I believe that the House should come up with an important piece of legislation that is truly the work of the House of Representatives, not just a mere adoption of the other chamber,” Biazon said.

“We understand that they went through the same process that we underwent, but the ability of each member of the House to put in their own work into the crafting of the legislation is something that I would bear as a matter of principle,” added the Muntinlupa congressman. 

It was only on May 29 when the committees on public order and safety as well as national defense and security decided to adopt the Senate version of the anti-terrorism bill, fast-tracking its passage through the legislative mill. 

Three days later, President Rodrigo Duterte certified the bill as urgent. 

During the period of amendments in the plenary on Tuesday, June 2, two lawmakers tried to propose amendments to address the contentious provisions, but these were all rejected. 

The public has been in uproar over the anti-terror bill, which is designed to allow warrantless arrests of individuals suspected by the government of being terrorists.

HB 6875 also broadens the definition of terrorism while lessening the restrictions on law enforcement agents who would effect these arrests.  

The official vote count for HB 6875 is 173 yes votes, 31 negative votes, and 29 abstentions. The plenary has yet to update its official tally for the anti-terror bill to reflect Biazon’s withdrawal.

A Rappler source also said several other lawmakers are changing either their yes vote or abstention to a no vote, but they are simply far too few to reverse the passage of the anti-terror bill.

“They changed their minds, maybe now that they are hearing the explanations [of those who voted no]. Paisa-isa lang (They are doing it one by one),” the source said. 

At least 3 legislators representing districts in Mindanao and who have firsthand experience dealing with violent extremists rejected HB 6875, arguing it would not combat terrorism and would instead further embolden terrorists. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.