By Mario B Casayuran

“As we speak, terrorist groups are probably planning their next attacks even as the Filipino people have already been confronted by a number of terrorist attacks.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson (JAY GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

This was stressed by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson in a recent sponsorship speech of his Senate Bill 1083, seeking to amend the Human Security Act of 2007 which was among the unfinished businesses of the past 17th Congress.

Lacson expressed hope that the bill would be passed by Congress in the current 18th Congress.

‘’We have seen a mutation in the way terrorist groups perpetrate their evil acts since the passage of the Human Security Act. We have seen the phenomenon of terrorism become more complex and malevolentm,’’ he pointed out.

‘’We have seen how the ISIS’ tactics have changed as the terror group continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria, how their members and sympathizers are taking the fight here in Southeast Asia. Yes, Mr. President, right here in our backyard,’’ he said.

‘’In fact, they attempted to establish a caliphate as they laid siege in Marawi. Unsuccessful, we saw the recent spate of suicide bombings in our southern island provinces,’’ he stressed.

‘’Just over the weekend of September 15, at least 700 kilos of ammonium nitrate and an 81mm mortar fuse were recovered in Patikul, Sulu. Imagine the extent of damage that these huge amounts of explosive components could have done if these were not seized by our security forces,’’ he added.

Lacson, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said the current Human Security Act has proven to fail in terms of its efficacy as an anti-terrorism measure.

As chairman of the Senate public order and illegal drugs committee, Lacson reminded his colleagues in the 24-member Senate that amending the Human Security Act means an end to Martial Law in Mindanao.

Though analysis of the situation shows that it is an empty martial law, “psywar” to even quote Defense Secretary Lorenzana, the term still has a lingering threat to the minds of the Filipino people, being a country severely traumatized and still being haunted by the horrors of Martial Law decades ago, he said.

‘’The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had repeatedly made a commitment to end martial law in Mindanao if the measure is passed,’’ he added..

Lacson said one of his main amendments was the new definition of terrorist acts.

‘’Our Committee seeks to make the definition of terrorist acts concise, clear, and adherent with regional and international standards,’’ he added.

Lacson pointed to the absurdity of the current Human Security Act where ‘’only in the Philippines where the anti-terror law has literally more provisions restricting our law enforcers than bringing terrorists to justice. ‘

‘’That is not an exaggeration. Under the current Human Security Act, there are only four instances for terrorists to be prosecuted under the law. These are: commission of the actual crime of terrorism; conspiracy to commit terrorism; accomplice; and accessory,’ he pointed out.

‘’On the other hand, there are a total of 20 instances where law enforcers can be charged and penalized for violations of the Human Security Act. I believe this is not rational. Add to this the penalty of P500,000 per day to be paid by the government to anyone erroneously detained for possible terrorism. This is not only irrational, Mr. President; it borders on the absurd,’’ he added.

Lacson said that the Philippines, as a responsible member of the international community, should realaize that there is a clear need for it to amend the Human Security Act in order to more effectively implement relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, meet international and regional standards on anti-terrorism laws, and fulfil state obligations as a United Nations member-state.

‘’Lastly, Mr. President, I emphasize that amending the Human Security Act does not take away the intent and spirit of the human rights safeguards provided by RA 9372 for persons accused of Terrorist Acts and Preparatory Acts,’’he said.

‘’Furthermore, by amending RA 9372, we ensure that our anti-terror law is clear, concise, and balanced. We strive to provide the state a strong legal backbone to protect the life, liberty and property of the Filipino people against the evils of terrorism.,’’ he added.