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House to tighten laws vs terrorism

The House committees on public order and safety and on national defense and security in a joint hearing on Tuesday created a technical working group (TWG) that will harmonize two anti-terror bills – House Bill 7141 and HB 5507.

The TWG will be headed by Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon.

House Bill 7141 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9372, otherwise known as the Human Security Act of 2007, while HB 5507 aims to declare as unlawful the membership in any Philippine Court-proscribed or United Nations Security Council-designated terrorist organizations.

Both bills are authored by Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr., chairman of the committee on national defense and security.

Under House Bill 7141, the title of RA 9372 will be changed to “Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2018” to maintain uniformity with other foreign jurisdictions which use the same title and avoid confusion since the law deals mainly with terrorism.

It also seeks to add three predicate crimes to the existing 12 on the definition of terrorism, namely RA 9208 or Anti-Trafficking In Person Act of 2003, as amended; RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; and RA 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

The bill also includes other punishable acts in addition to conspiracy to commit terrorism. These are the proposal to commit terrorism, inciting to terrorism,  recruitment to terrorist organization, providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organization, foreign terrorist fighter, and glorification of terrorism.

Likewise, it seeks to change the fixed penalty of 40 years of imprisonment, to life imprisonment to death, giving the judge leeway to impose the appropriate penalty.

Meanwhile, HB 5507, or the Unlawful Membership in Terrorist Organizations Act of 2017, seeks to make it unlawful for any person to knowingly become a member or manifest his/her intention to become a member of any Philippine court- proscribed or United Nations Security Council-designated terrorist organization.

Any person found guilty under the act shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, while any person who knowingly furnishes false evidence in any action brought under the act shall be punishable by up to six years in prison.

At the hearing were Ferdie Manalastas of the Anti-Terrorism Council; Chad Martin Escorso of the Department of Information and Communications Technology; Defense undersecretary Ricardo David Jr.; Interior and Local Government assistant secretary Alexander Macario; Lt. Col. Benjamin Leandro of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Chief Supt. Rudolph Dimas of the Philippine National Police; Head agent Raoul Manguerra of the National Bureau of Investigation; Executive Director Mel Racela of the Anti-Money Laundering Advisory Council; and Gisella Mendoza of the Department of Justice, among others.

Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, chairman of the committee on public order and safety, said the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act envision to strengthen the country’s anti-terror legislation and make it more responsive to threats to national security through the inclusion of additional punishable acts and the addition of predicate crimes.

Acop said under existing law, only one case was successfully prosecuted and that RA No. 9372 contains only four provisions on acts that penalized law enforcers involved in terror attacks.

ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio suggested the inclusion of human rights advocates in the TWG so they can participate in the deliberation of the bill, to which the chair agreed.

Biazon said the TWG might hold meetings even during the recess to allow all stakeholders to participate in the deliberation of the bills.#