Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support for the proposed amendments to the Republic Act 9372, or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, during the hearing conducted on Tuesday by the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security where Go serves as the Vice Chairperson.
Go said that terrorist threats, both incoming and within the country, should be dealt with utmost urgency.
“Dapat mas padaliin natin ang paghuli sa mga terorista,” Go said during the hearing. “Kailangan i-address ang mga loopholes sa kasalukuyang HSA, tulad ng pagtanggal ng PhP500,000 penalty per day para sa false prosecutions ng mga law enforcers.”
Go also cited the need to operationalize the term “terrorist acts” to include the use of social media in their proliferation.
“Kailangan i-define ng maayos ang terrorist acts para maisama ang paggamit ng social media sa terorismo. Sana pag-aralan ito ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno,” Go said.
Currently, bills have been filed by Senators Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos and Tito Sotto seeking to amend RA 9372.
Senate Bill No. 21, proposed by Senator Lacson, seeks to plug loopholes in current HSA, enhancing the capabilities of the authorities to prevent terrorist attacks and bring their perpetrators to justice.
The proposed measure seeks to provide law enforcement agencies with sufficient tools to conduct investigations that would enable them to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen. It also states that there is a need to give the government a more comprehensive legal framework that will enable tougher criminal justice response to terrorism.
Among the bill’s salient features also include making recruitment and membership in a terrorist group, and providing material support to terrorists as punishable acts; 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 in the Philippines or abroad; addition of the Regional Trial Court as a venue for securing judicial authorization for surveillance; and longer period of judicial authorization for surveillance to give law enforcers more time to effectively gather evidence.
The proposed law also seeks to increase the functions of the Anti-Terrorism Council, which shall include the mandate to monitor the progress of investigations and prosecution of all persons accused and/or detained for the crimes defined under RA 9372 to prevent abuse and ensure proper conduct of investigations.
Under the bill, terrorist acts will be punishable by life imprisonment without parole. Public officers found guilty of terrorist acts will also face perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of their retirement benefits.
The bill also clarifies that terrorist acts will exclude the legitimate exercise 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.”
The bill also provides that the Anti-Terrorism Council membership will be expanded to include the secretaries of information and communications technology, science and technology, transportation, labor and employment, education, and social welfare and development; presidential adviser for peace, reunification and unity; and representative from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Moreover, 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.