BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Various youth groups, as well as members of the progressive groups and the diocese, went to the office of Bacolod Representative Greg Gasataya on Friday, June 5, to protest his vote on the anti-terror bill, which was said to be a threat to the dissenters.
The youth protesters were allegedly threatened by police for mobilizing in the area.
Krishna Ariola, founding member of Hilway Youth Organization, said that even with the peaceful gathering and practicing of health and safety protocols, police in camouflage uniforms intimidated them before the demonstration started.
“They threatened us with dispersal and immediate arrest. The bill has not yet been signed into law, but this administration has long enabled and emboldened the culture of violence in our law-enforcing bodies,” she said.
Later on, she said Gasataya’s office met with 4 of the protesters, and they were able to engage in productive discourse.
His office offered to host a conference call with Gasataya and the youth advocates to discuss the bill and seek solutions, she said.
“Rep. Gasataya has stood firmly in his advocacies for youth empowerment, education, and mental health. We have seen his efforts for true participatory governance, but his affirmative vote on the Anti-Terrorism Bill enables the oppression of our freedoms as his constituents,” she said.
She added, the youth, among all others, are rendered vulnerable to targeted human rights violations once this bill is passed into law.
“We stand with our sole demand for Rep. Gasataya to withdraw his vote and hear out our calls,” she said, adding, “We stand for human rights for all, without reservations.”
Also joining the youth protesters was Father Chris Gonzales, head of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod.
Mark Steven Mayo, consultant at the office of Gasataya, said police officers were already there when he arrived, and that police were about to apprehend the protesters, “but I intervened and mediated to facilitate a dialog.”
Mayo added Gasataya’s office could only accommodate 4 protesters due to space constraints and the need to observe social distancing.
He explained to the protesters the reasons for Gasataya’s vote on the anti-terrorism bill. “We exchanged thoughts and sentiments on the matter,” he added.
He said the office of Gasataya also arranged a video conference call with the youth to address their concerns and sentiments.
‘Yes with reservations’
Gasataya voted in favor of the anti-terrorism bill, but with reservations.
He said he recognizes the “intentions of the bill to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism, to condemn terrorism as inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the people.”
He also said that terrorism is a crime against the law of nations, against humanity, and against the Filipino people. “It is for these pressing reasons that this Representation voted in the affirmative for House Bill No. 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” he added.
However, he listed some “significant reservations” for consideration during the Conference Committee or in the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of this legislation.
On the matter of Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications under Section 16 of the bill, he said that Paragraph C shall apply to suspected persons only after a formal case against him/her has already been filed in the proper court.
On the matter of Designation of Terrorist Individuals, Groups of Persons, Organizations or Associations under Section 25 of the bill, Gasataya said the designation by the Anti-Terrorism Council of terrorist individuals, groups of persons, organizations, or associations shall only be effective and binding upon the unanimous vote of all its members who must be present during the actual voting regardless of circumstances and excuses for absence.
On the matter of Detention Without Judicial Warrant of Arrest under Section 29 of the bill, he said the warrantless arrest of persons suspected of committing any acts of terrorism as defined in the bill should strictly abide with the circumstances on valid warrantless arrest under Rule 113, Section 5 of the Rules of Court.
“Any act of warrantless arrest which does not fall under the provision of the Rules of Court shall be considered invalid and must be absolutely prohibited,” he stressed.
He said his reservations are aimed to preserve and protect the time-honored principle of separation of powers between the co-equal branches of our government: executive, legislative, and judiciary.
“Corollary to this is the importance of checks and balances to prevent abuse of power by one branch over the other at the expense of public interest and general welfare of the people,” he said.
He also stressed that he strongly affirms the constitutionally protected rights of the people to speech, expression, and to peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances, the right for equal protection of laws, right to due process, and ultimately the right of the Filipino people to life, liberty, or property.
On Wednesday, June 3, the House of Representatives passed the anti-terror bill, which was certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, with 173 affirmative votes, 31 negative votes, and 29 abstentions.
Negrense congressman Stephen Paduano (Abang-Lingkod party-list) co-authored the bill, while Rep. Francisco Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd District) voted no to the measure. – Rappler.com