Presidential legal counsel asks the President to sign already the anti-terror bill

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Friday has asked the chief executive to sign already the bill which seeks to strengthen the Philippines’ campaign against terrorism.

Panelo said enough safeguards are in place to prevent the law’s abuse.

Panelo said he came up with the recommendation, saying he has had a “careful and thoughtful review” of the bill, which has drawn criticism because it allegedly contained provisions that may be used to stifle dissent.

Critics have warned against the up-to 24-day warrantless detention period for suspected terrorists, and the alleged authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council to authorize in writing the arrest of terrorism suspects.

“Our office has studied each and every provision, which should not be read in isolation but in connection with each other so as to render the document in its entirety, as well as its directives, effective in combating terrorism, and found the same passing the constitutional test,” Panelo said.

“The bill contains sufficient safeguards which ensure that its provisions would be implemented and enforced against those who intend to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace through lawless actions without violating the latter’s political and civil rights,” Panelo said.

Panelo said there are legal remedies against abuses on the part of the authorities, adding the fears raised by certain sectors in connection with the bill, which seeks to replace the 13-year-old Human Security Act, were “more imagined than real.”

“The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will serve as a powerful weapon against participants of these lawless actions, the threat of which is extremely imminent during our current times,” he said.

Duterte has the option to sign it into law, veto it, or not do anything for 30 days and just allow it to automatically lapse into law.

Once the bill becomes law, critics can question its constitutionality before the Supreme Court, Malacañang and Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said on Thursday./Stacy Ang

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