PingBills | Gov’t Gets More Teeth vs Terrorism with Lacson Bill

To combat the continued global threat of terrorism, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson has filed a bill that gives the Philippine government more tools to protect the public from this menace.

Senate Bill 21 plugs the loopholes in Republic Act 9372 (the Human Security Act of 2007) so Philippine authorities can prevent terrorist attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice.

“This bill aims to give the government an effective legal framework that would enable it to have a criminal justice response to terrorism. This measure seeks to provide our law enforcement with enough tools to conduct investigations that would enable to them to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen, or in case they are unable to do so, at least bring the perpetrators to justice,” Lacson said in his bill.

Related: PingBills | Mas Mabangis na Batas vs Terorismo, Puntirya ni Ping

He added that while an anti-terror law in itself cannot solve the problem of terrorism, “an intensified one can give the government and the law enforcement agencies the much-needed tool in dealing with the emerging threats of terrorism.”

Lacson, who headed the Philippine National Police from 1999 to 2001, had also played a key role in crafting the Human Security Act of 2007.

In his bill, Lacson noted that while RA 9372 has been in effect for more than 10 years, gaps in the law prevented authorities from implementing it properly.

So far, he said the only conviction for terrorism under the 2007 law was the conviction of Nur Sapian by the Taguig City Regional Trial Court.

He added the occupation of Marawi City by the Maute Group in 2017 “showcased the gaps in the current law that leads to the conclusion that we still do not have an effective legal framework that can empower the government to address terrorism as a crime.”

Lacson’s bill defines and sets penalties against “Terrorist Acts” and removes the predicate crimes in defining terrorism.

Among the bill’s salient features are:

* Making recruitment and membership in a terrorist group a punishable act;
* A new provision regarding Foreign Terrorist Fighters to give the statement that the Philippines cannot be used as a pit stop for foreign terrorists planning to commit terrorist acts here or abroad;
* Making providing material support to terrorists a punishable act;
* Addition of the Regional Trial Court as a venue for securing judicial authorization for surveillance;
* Longer period of judicial authorization for surveillance to give law enforcers more time to effectively gather evidence;
* Provision on preliminary order for proscription of terrorist organizations;
* Including the Secretaries of the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, and Department of Social Welfare and Development in the composition of the Anti-Terrorism Council;
* Increasing the functions of the Anti-Terrorism Council, which now includes the mandate to monitor the progress of investigations and prosecution of all persons accused and/or detained for the crimes defined under this Act to prevent abuse and ensure proper conduct of investigations.

Under the bill, terrorist acts are punishable by life imprisonment without parole. Public officers found guilty of terrorist acts face perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of their retirement benefits.

But the bill makes it clear that terrorist acts shall exclude legitimate exercises of the freedom of expression and right to peaceably assemble “where a person does not have the intention to use or urge the use of force or violence or cause harm to others.”

Meanwhile, the Anti-Terrorism Council membership is expanded to include the secretaries of:

* information and communications technology
* science and technology
* transportation
* labor and employment
* education
* social welfare and development
* presidential adviser for peace, reunification and unity
* representative from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

Also, schools, learning centers and training institutions found promoting or encouraging acts of violence, extremism, or terrorist acts shall have their licenses revoked and shall immediately cease operation.