20 Philippine lawmakers withdraw support on new anti-terrorism bill


After a groundswell of opposition to the anti-terrorism bill, 20 Philippine lawmakers distanced themselves from the newly crafted law citing provisions that they do not agree with and vague definition of “terrorism” among their concerns.

Fifteen members of the House of Representatives had their names stricken out as authors of the anti-terrorism bill while at least five others retracted or corrected their votes.

Previously, a letter from President Rodrigo Duterte urging the two legislative chambers to fast-track the bill’s approval resulted in the Senate version of the law being adapted and approved by the House of Representative.

The final version of House Bill No. 6875, which passed its third and final reading last Wednesday, lists only 56 names as co-authors, fewer by 15 than the 71 who were originally named in the committee report.

The bill is expected to land on President Rodrigo Duterte’s desk this week for his signature despite mounting protests in the streets and an uproar on social media over provisions critics said would make it easier for authorities to suppress free speech, harass the opposition, arrest activists, detain them without warrant for longer periods, and brand anyone as a terrorist.

The delisted names include those of a principal author, Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon, who earlier disowned the measure as it only copied the Senate version, and three Deputy Speakers: Loren Legarda of Antique, Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga, and Evelina Escudero of Sorsogon.

Some of the lawmakers, including Legarda, had requested their names removed after they were “mistakenly” referred to as co-authors in the committee report endorsed to the plenary for second and third reading approval last week.

The division of the House on Wednesday resulted in a split 173-31 vote with 29 abstentions, but that was corrected to 168-36 on Thursday to reflect a number of corrections or retractions from the members.

Laguna Representative Sol Aragones and Pasig Representative Roman Romulo on Sunday each said they informed the House secretariat that they were incorrectly recorded as having voted affirmatively to HB 6875 when they had in fact abstained.

“I share the view that we need to fight terrorism, but there are provisions I do not agree to and which I think needs further study, which is why I voted to abstain from the start, contrary to the list circulating that I voted yes,” Aragones said.

Romulo said he immediately informed the secretariat that his vote “was not properly reflected.” “They checked. Then they said it will be corrected,” he told the Inquirer.

Bulacan Representative Lorna Silverio, who voted yes to the bill, told Secretary General Jose Luis Montales in a June 04 letter that she was retracting her vote and would rather abstain “because I personally want to study further the pros and cons of the amendments introduced to the Human Security Act.”

To date, the House has not released an official tally of how its members voted on the bill.

The bill amends and repeals the Human Security Act, and imposes tougher penalties, including life imprisonment, on anyone who will participate in, conspire with or incite others in the planning or facilitation of a terrorist attack.

Critics argued that the definitions of acts of terrorism in the bill were too broad and allowed too many interpretations that might pave the way for human rights abuses. (Source: INQUIRER.net)