Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez: Fear of abuse 'not a valid reason' to reject new anti-terrorism bill

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Leyte Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez came in defense on Wednesday over the controversial anti-terrorism bill, fearing that the proposed law will create abused is not a valid reason to immediately reject it.

In an article by GMA News, the former commercial model said the fear of critics that the new anti-terrorism bill can be subject to abuses once it becomes a law is "not unfounded."

She added that some laws, even those that are "benign" and "charitable" have been a
bused in the past, not just under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte but from past administrations as well.

"But fear of abuse is not a valid reason to reject a bill outright. It's not a valid reason to reject needed legislation like the anti-terrorism bill," Torres-Gomez said during an ANC interview.

"That is why there are safeguards in place to prevent those abuses from happening," she added.

The new anti-terrorism bill is now being lined-up for the President's signature after Congress approved it before it went on a sine die adjournment or for an indefinite period this month.

However, concerns from various groups have been raised that the proposed measure might be used to target individuals that expressed opposition against the government.

Torres-Gomez pointed out that it is important to read the bill "with the right target in mind."

"This is a bill aimed to bring terrorists to justice. This isn't about making life difficult for activists," she said.

"When we muddle the bill and lump all the other crimes for fear that it will be also tagged as a crime of terrorism, that's where all the confusion happens," she added.

The lady lawmaker also emphasized the need to measure which risk is heavier on the people: the risk of wrongful arrest or the risk of a terror attack actually happening.

"Not that I prefer [wrongful arrest]. I'm just saying that if wrongful arrest does happen, that person has legal recourse. But when a terror attack has been carried out, the damage is irreversible," she said.

To eliminate concerns of possible abuse by authorities, the measure mandates that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist.

The bill also tasks the CHR to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons and to have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers, and other persons who may have violated the rights of suspects and detained persons.

Law enforcement agencies such as police and military personnel who have found to have violated the rights of the accused persons will also face a jail sentence of 10 years.

Duterte said that as of Monday, his legal team is still reviewing the new anti-terrorism bill.

"My legal (team) is still reviewing it… Hindi ko pa natanggap. I had it reviewed. It’s always automatic. ‘Pag naano sa’kin, I endorse it to legal, without even reading it actually… It’s legal who will return it to me with the recommendation if I will approve it or not,” he said in a nationally televised address.

"It was all innocent until proven guilty. By that time, it does not apply to a crime like terrorism because if we use that argument, wala na, na-detonate na kung bomb (it will already be detonated, if it's a bomb," she said. 

An anti-terrorism law "should be not just reactive, but also preventive," said the Leyte representative. 

"Terrorism is the highest crime against humanity. I don't think it is right to not pursue a tip or go after a suspect... We have to weigh which risk weighs heavier on people: the risk of wrongful arrest or the risk of a terror act actually happening," she said. 

"If wrongful arrest does happen, that person has legal recourse. But when a terror attack has been carried out, the damage is irreversible."  she added.

Meanwhile, Presidential spokesperson said, Duterte is "inclined" to approve the measure and believes the 14-day detention of terror suspects is constitutional.

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