Cayetano, Sotto send anti-terrorism bill for Duterte’s signature amid lawmakers withdrawing support

June 9, 2020 - 5:54 PM
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Tito Sotto gesturing in the Senate
Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III gesturing in a speech. (Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal)

The controversial bill against terrorism had been transmitted to Malacañang amid the withdrawal of support from members of the Lower House.

On Tuesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed to reporters that he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano have already signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 last night or on June 8. Congress approved this proposed measure on the third and final reading last May 29. 

Sotto then said that a copy of the bill was sent to the Palace via email on the morning of June 9. He later informed reporters that this has been received by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Office of the President, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO). 

The measure, earlier certified as urgent by Duterte, is now at his desk for signature.  

In a virtual press briefing last June 4, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that Duterte will not automatically sign the proposed measure despite certifying it urgent.  

“That is still subject to final review by the President to ensure that it is compliant with our Constitution,” Roque said.  

This development came following a string of withdrawals from several House representatives who previously either voted in favor of the measure or were placed as among its authors last week.  

Over the weekend, several Filipinos and prestigious universities also reported the sudden emergence of ghost or dummy accounts on Facebook, wherein they bear the same usernames of the original users and fabricated personal information about them.  

Some victims who happened to be vocal against the passage of the anti-terror bill shared that the copycat profiles’ handlers even sent them threats. 

Critics of the bill cited these circumstances as alleged grounds for Sotto and Cayetano to suddenly put their signatures to the bill amid widespread opposition to its passage.  

THIS GOVERNMENT IS SCARED AND DESPERATE. We only need two more congressmen to withdraw their ‘Yes’ vote but ALL OF A SUDDEN, Cayetano and Sotto sent the bill to Duterte,” one Twitter user said.  

Writer Katrina Santiago likewise argued that the dummy accounts issue was a distraction. 

“Those clones did their work—we got distracted—so last night the poor excuse for a House Speaker #CancelCayetano signed the anti-terror bill and sent it to Malacañang for Duterte to sign,” Santiago said.  

National Union of the Journalist of the Philippines chair Nonoy Espina also questioned why the bill was sent without announcement of the final vote record.

“They transmitted the Terror Bill without releasing the vote record. What are they hiding?” Espina tweeted.

Since Monday, at least fifteen members clarified to have their names stricken off as co-authors of the bill and five more changed their votes amid the widespread opposition to its passage. 

Prominent lawmakers who denied authorship are Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda (Antique) and Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa City), who was actually among the principal authors.  

Sotto responded to his colleagues’ decisions to back outsaying “it has never been done.” 

“A bill passed by both Houses of Congress already enrolled and yet some congressmen would like to hold it? It has never been done,” he said in a message to reporters.  

Based on House rules, a bill can only be reconsidered while House is still in session. Congress adjourned last Friday, June 5. 

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, meanwhile, criticized lawmakers who changed their stance on the controversial bill.

A petition and an email protest  

If signed into law, the proposed legislation will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007which is the country’s existing law against terrorism.  

However, activists, lawyers and other legal experts have deemed some of its provisions unconstitutional such as legalizing wiretapping, granting of warrantless arrests without redress of grievances and vague definition of terrorism.   

The hashtags #junkterrorbill and #junkterrorbillnow have been used in online calls to scrap it since the Senate’s approval last February.  

Big names in the entertainment industry both here and overseas have also expressed dissent and urged their followers to sign an online petition via Change.org addressed to the Lower House. 

Some Filipinos took a more direct approach through a coordinated email protest to congressmen in hopes of changing their minds.