Under the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Thus, the plan of those opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill to hold protests on Independence Day – regardless of whether they have read and understood the bill – is their basic right, guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
Terrorism knows no timing nor borders. Some of our country’s policy-makers, especially our people, should know better than just criticizing and believing the massive disinformation campaign against a measure that can secure and protect us as well as our families and loved ones from terrorist acts perpetrated in a manner so sudden, least expected and indiscriminate – as in anytime, probably even today, tomorrow or next week.
That said, I incorporated most of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism laws of other strong democracies like Australia and the United States, further guided by the standards set by the United Nations, save for the reglementary period of detention in which we adopted the shortest time of 14 days – compared to Thailand with up to 30 days; Malaysia, up to two years; Singapore at 720 days extendible to an indefinite period of detention without formal charges; and Indonesia, up to 120 additional days. Also, safeguards have been put in place to ensure the rights of those detained.
With the help of many of my colleagues who interpellated and proposed their individual amendments, including all the members of the minority bloc, I was more than accommodating to accept their amendments as long as we would not end up with another dead-letter law such as the Human Security Act of 2007, which has so far resulted in just one conviction after more than a decade of its implementation and just one proscribed terrorist organization such as the Abu Sayyaf Group.
To the critics, I dare say: I hope the day will not come when you or any of your loved ones will be at the receiving end of a terrorist attack, so much so that it will be too late for you to regret convincing the Filipino people to junk this landmark legislation.