Marcos: Amend Anti-Terror Law Now

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The country’s 12-year-old anti-terrorism law must be updated soon to cope with the digital, transnational, and evolving nature of terrorism, Senator Imee R. Marcos said Monday.

New modes of terrorism and what used to be mere predicate crimes are now main offenses punishable with life imprisonment or a possible death penalty in Senate Bill 630, which Marcos filed to give more teeth to the Human Security Act of 2007.

“Terrorist activity in Philippine territory has become frequent and commonplace,” Marcos said, citing the first recorded case of a Filipino suicide bomber in Sulu last July and the conviction of two terrorist suspects that included an Indonesian earlier this year.

Unmentioned in the present law, cyber attacks on computer systems are considered punishable terrorist acts in the Marcos bill and would compel system providers to give customer information to law enforcers.

Recruiting terrorists and glorifying violent acts that sow fear and panic among the public or threaten the government or public services, whether done personally or through the media, are also in the bill’s roster of terrorist acts.

“Neither religion, ideology, politics, nor economic goals can excuse acts of violent extremism,” Marcos said.

Naming the violent use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material as terrorist acts will also harmonize national law with international agreements, Marcos added.

Educational institutions found involved in terrorist indoctrination will have its licenses revoked, its officials made liable, and be immediately shut down.

Senate Bill 630 also provides for hold-departure orders on terrorist suspects and swifter access to their bank accounts by giving the Anti-Terrorism Council the authority to seek on its own a court order to open them.

Marcos also proposed to delineate media coverage of hostage-taking incidents by prioritizing concerns of national security and law enforcement efficiency, recalling the international embarassment caused by the Luneta hostage crisis in 2010.

Violent acts against Filipinos abroad are also punishable in Marcos’s bill, nor will planning terrorist acts outside the country or seeking shelter in embassies within the country give legal refuge to foreign or Filipino terrorists for attacks committed in Philippine territory.