Robredo: Why rush anti-terrorism bill during pandemic?

Sofia Tomacruz
Robredo: Why rush anti-terrorism bill during pandemic?
'Diyos ko naman. Nakakapanlumo,' says Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – With the anti-terrorism bill only one step away from becoming law, Vice President Leni Robredo questioned why the Duterte government railroaded the bill’s passage in Congress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robredo hit the priorities of lawmakers as she pointed out that government officials should be “all hands on deck” in responding to the health emergency.

“Diyos ko naman. Nakakapanlumo…kasi dumadaan tayo sa trahedyang pinakamalaki sa history…. Iyong health crisis na pinagdaraanan ngayon, hindi pa tayo dumaan sa ganito, eh…. Dapat sana lahat naka-focus sa problema tapos isisingit pa itong anti-terror bill?…. Bakit ipipilit – hindi lang ito sinisingit, pinipilit?” Robredo said during her weekly Biserbisyong Leni radio show on Sunday, June 7.

(My god. It’s disheartening because we’re going through one of the biggest tragedies in history. We haven’t gone through this kind of health crisis before. Everyone should be focused on this problem, but instead they’re working on this anti-terror bill? Why force it – not just insert – but force it?)

The House of Representatives passed the anti-terrorism bill after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent on June 1, days before Congress was set to adjourn on June 5.

The House simply adopted the Senate version of the bill passed earlier in February and blocked any amendments.

Robredo hit the House leadership’s decision to block changes to the bill, saying it violated the “essence of democracy.”

“Iyong iba’t ibang boses, iyon iyong essence ng demokrasya. Ang gusto nila…i-adopt na lang iyong Senate version kasi minamadali nga kahit na huwag na mag-bicam. Pero parang binawian ‘nyo ng boses iyong mamamayan,” she said.

(Having different voices is the essence of democracy. What they wanted was to just adopt the Senate version because they were in a rush and wanted to do away with the [bicameral conference committee]. But you’re taking away the people’s voices.) 

Robredo likewise raised alarm over problematic provisions of the bill which civic groups and human rights lawyers warned made the measure more dangerous than the Human Security Act of 2007.

Among these are the broad definition of terrorism and the lack of penalties for erring law enforcers, which could create room for more abuses. (READ: EXPLAINER: Comparing dangers in old law and anti-terror bill)

“Grabe iyong spaces for abuse kaya ito…mariin natin itong kinokontra…. Hindi natin binabawalan magpasa ng batas kung palagay nila hindi pa sufficient ito (current law), pero sa tama naman na proseso,” Robredo said. 

(There’s much room for abuse so we strongly oppose the bill. I’m not saying they shouldn’t pass a bill if they feel the current law is insufficient, but there should be a proper process.)

Retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said the measure, once enacted into law, can be challenged “on its face” or right away at the Supreme Court as it touches on “fundamental constitutional rights…and provides penalties for its violation.” – Rappler.com 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.