Press Release
December 6, 2006

Drilon introduces amendments to anti-terror bill
to address fears of human rights abuses

The Senate may agree after all on a compromise version of the controversial anti-terrorism bill after Liberal Party (LP) President Franklin Drilon Tuesday night successfully introduced major amendments that would provide adequate safeguards against concerns of possible abuses by law enforcement and security officers.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, principal sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 2137 or the proposed Anti-Terror Act, agreed to adopt Drilon's more than 30 minor and major amendments designed to address fears expressed by local and international civil rights groups that the bill could be exploited by abusive law enforcers and trigger more human rights violations in the country.

With Enrile accepting most of his proposed amendments and with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Mar Roxas participating in the deliberations and agreeing with most of the new provisions, Drilon expressed confidence that the Senate would be able to pass its version of the anti-terrorism bill before the Christmas break.

The House of Representatives approved its version of the anti-terror bill in December last year.

Among the major changes introduced by Drilon, chairman of the Senate Public Order and Illegal Drugs and Finance Committees, were new provisions in the bill imposing administrative and criminal sanctions against law enforcers who would abuse the anti-terror law and conduct illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, illegal seizures and unlawful surveillance activities.

As another important safeguard against possible abuse, Drilon also introduced a more stringent requirement, such as a written consent from the Court of Appeals instead of a mere Regional Trial Court approval, before law enforcement personnel can conduct surveillance operations against a terror suspect or open, examine or freeze bank accounts of the same.

"This is a complex and delicate bill as it involves the possible curtailment of basic liberties in the interest of order and public safety," Drilon explained. "In the fight against terror, we need to equip our law enforcers with updated laws for us to keep up with the times. However, we also found it necessary to impose safeguards that would guarantee that no human rights abuses will be committed in the name of the anti-terrorism campaign."

The Drilon amendments also provided a more precise definition of violent crimes that fall under "acts of terrorism" in response to criticisms that some provisions of the bill were "very vague and broad."

Among the other major amendments introduced by Drilon were as follows:

  • Law enforcement personnel must file a criminal case against a suspected terrorist within a period of five days after the arrest. Under the Drilon amendments, the police or any law enforcement agency must immediately inform the nearest court in writing of any arrest of a terror suspect. In cases of arrest during holidays, weekends or after office-hours, the written notice shall be served in the residence of the judge nearest the place where the accused was arrested.

  • No law enforcement personnel shall conduct any surveillance activities on a suspect without the written consent of the Court of Appeals. The Prosecutor's Office must then file a criminal case against a suspect within a period of 30 days after the termination of the surveillance period granted by the court of appeals. In the event no case is filed in court, the law enforcer shall immediately inform the suspect of the surveillance activity under pain of administrative and criminal sanctions.

  • No law enforcement personnel shall be authorized to open, examine and/or freeze the bank accounts of a terrorism suspect without written consent of the Court of Appeals. The Prosecutor's Office must then file the appropriate case against a suspect within a period of 30 days after the termination of the period granted by the Court of Appeals. In the event no case is filed, the law enforcer shall immediately inform the suspect of the investigation under pain of administrative and criminal sanctions.

  • A terrorist is defined as a person who commits violent acts punishable under the Revised Penal Code either to advance, propagate a religious, political or ideological belief, or to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to a given demand. If found guilty, a terrorist shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

  • Those accused of terrorism shall be subjected to continuous and speedy trial as provided for by law.

  • Drilon also emphasized that the logbook maintained for arrested personnel shall be made accessible to the public.

The anti-terrorism bill, a Malacañang -certified measure, faced rough sailing in the Senate earlier with minority senators led by Pimentel warning that the bill may end up getting trashed if the proponents of the measure refused to accept the suggestions to put adequate safeguards against possible abuses.

The minority senators said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's certification of the bill was not enough to stampede the Senate into approving the measure. They said they were having second thoughts about approving the bill in the wake of rampant human rights violations allegedly committed by the military and police under the Arroyo administration.

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