'Too broad, worrisome': Chiz Escudero talks anti-terror law with Heart Evangelista
MANILA, Philippines – Sorsogon governor Chiz Escudero recently reunited with his wife, actress Heart Evangelista, and the two had a conversation on the anti-terror bill, which was signed into law on July 3, to much public objection. (READ: 'Dear Duterte, may paki ka ba sa amin?': Celebrities, artists react to anti-terror law)
Their conversation was published on Heart’s vlog on July 3, but appeared to be recorded before the measure was passed because she and Chiz still referred to it as the anti-terror bill. In the video, Chiz said he had “serious reservations” about what is now known as Republic Act No. 11479, particularly with the section that allowed the anti-terrorism council (ATC) to conduct warrantless arrests of people who are even just suspected of terrorism.
Chiz said that this provision violated the constitution “because under the constitution and under the law, you can only be arrested if they have a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge.”
“So that’s what makes the law, in a way, problematic,” he said.
He also said that the law “did not provide for the quantum of evidence of proof that the anti-terror council should have before they can consider you a ‘suspect.’” He noted that there weren’t any procedures laid out as to how the ATC would determine a suspect before a person is arrested.
“Will they vote unanimously before a person is arrested?…none is stated, unlike the provision of the constitution which is very, very specific,” he said.
Heart, who said she had been reading the bill on her own to further understand it, asked Chiz about various scenarios where one could possibly be considered a suspect, to which Chiz responded: “there are no definitions. It’s too broad, and that’s what makes it worrisome,” he said.
Chiz said he anticipated that the bill would pass into law, and also said that it would most likely be questioned before the Supreme Court.
“Now if they place limitations, procedures in order to constitute what they call a valid delegation of legislative power to the ATC then probably it can withstand constitutional scrutiny by the Supreme Court. But then again the Supreme Court as they say is the court of last resort,” he said. “If the Supreme Court makes a mistake it nevertheless becomes part of the law of the land because they are the final arbiter of anything.”
A question of confidence in government
Heart brought up that other countries have “more extreme” laws, “but its done in a way that is safer…”
“It’s not a question of safe,” Chiz responded. “It’s a question of confidence, I guess. It’s a question of the level of confidence of the people in ther government, the level of confidence they have in their institutions.”
“It depends how long these insittutions have been working and how high their level of confidence is that these institutions will actually be able to balance two competing interests: on the one hand to prevent terrorism or any terror attack, on the other, protect innocent civilians and those who may be falsely or wrongfully accused because of whatever motive those in power may have,” he said.
Chiz said that if he could revise the law, he would revise the provision regarding warrantless arrests.
“Without giving necessarily the power to arrest 'suspects' or at the very least provide procedures by which a “suspect” is defined and determined and transparency rules as to how these suspects are being identified or will be identified. Again it’s a question of confidence building,” he said.
“I think government should, instead of fighting or arguing with people saying ‘you’re wrong, you’re right, it’s fake news’ they should just simply build confidence that this law will not be abused, that this law even if it should pass will be subjected to constitutional scrutiny by the Supreme Court and that they will obey,” he said.
Chiz said that he believed that many people will be filing cases at the Supreme Court to question provisions of the law.
As for what people can do to stand against the anti-terror law, Chiz said people could appeal to their representatives.
“As with any law that you don’t like or as with any law that you initially liked but later on turned out to be a bad law, then you go to Congress and make known your position or opinion so that Congress will be convinced to either amend, repeal, or abrogate the law in its entirety,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terror bill into law on the same day that the Philippines’ coronavirus cases breached 40,000.
Before the law was signed, it was met with objection from various sectors, from public figures, law experts, human rights, advocates, and citizens, who fear that the law’s vague definitions of terrorism could easily be abused. – Rappler.com