BY AARON RECUENCO
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is planning to create its own specialized units that would enforce the Anti-Terorrism Act of 2020 as the government started to implement the controversial law amid widespread opposition and concerns on the constitutionality of some of its provisions.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said they are currently at the stage of studying the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, including a discussion on what provisions of the law can now be implemented and what provisions still need an Implenting Rules and Regulations (IRR) for clarity.
“Many are saying there are provisions of the Anti-Terror law that are already executory and do not require the IRR but nevertheless we still have to study this and what are these so that this will be part of training,” said Gamboa.
“So we are now on the stage of preparing for, waiting for the IRR and then creating units for the specific task of implementing the Anti-Terror Law,” he added.
The Anti-Terror Law was questioned even by those from the legal sector and the academe over some of the alleged provisions that violate the 1987 Constitution, especially on the Bill of Rights.
Some of those mentioned as dangerous provisions are the alleged free hand of the Anti-Terrorism Board to declare a person or group as terrorists, the maximum detention period wherein the new Law extended it to a maximum of 24 days, and arguments that the Law goes against the freedom of the press and expression since some puboication and even social media posts could be classified as terrorism or in support of terrorism.,
Critics said that those in power could actually use the Anti-Terror Law to stifle political dissent and democratic rights of the people to criticize the government as the Law also carries provisions that allow surveillance of suspected terrorists.
At least 10 petitions have already been filed before the Supreme Court questioning the Constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law.
But for Gamboa, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 gives the PNP a stronger fighting chance of protecting itself and our people against the threats of terrorism.
He then cited the observations of no less than the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres ho was quoted saying that the COVID-19 pandemic opens new opportunities for terrorist groups to exploit divisions, local conflicts, weaknesses in governance, and other grievances to advance their objectives through emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyber attacks and bio-terrorism.
“With a fully operational anti-terrorism law, we can now better address threats posed by domestic terrorist organizations, including the economic support systems that allow it to thrive, expand and propagate its cause,” said Gamboa. (Aaron Recuenco)