Senator Tito Sotto has made his displeasure known as opposing voices grow louder against the pending Anti-Terrorism Bill. The lawmaker clapped back at critics during ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo interview, calling them ‘epal’.
‘Ang dami kong naririnig at nababasa sa social media na mukhang di naiintindihan eh, katakot-takot na pintas, hindi nila alam itong anti-terror bill na bago, daming epal ika nga. Iyung pinipintas nila wala don sa bill’, said Sotto, who also tweeted the same sentiment.
Daming nakiki- Epal, Mali naman ang Alam!
— Tito Sotto (@sotto_tito) June 3, 2020
Sotto argued that there are enough safeguards in place to ensure that the bill won’t be abused against government critics. He clarifies that it’s only terrorists and their supporters who need to be concerned.
‘Hindi basta nanggugulo sa kanto terorista na… It does not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, yung strike or industrial or mass action, or exercise of civil and political rights’.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Sotto’s sentiments, adding that while the critics’ concerns are valid, the freedom of speech is still protected by the Consitution.
‘When we talk about possibilities, it’s unlimited. But that’s precisely why we have the Bill of Rights’, Roque said per Manila Bulletin.
‘The Bill of Rights limits the extent that Congress can provide for conduct and if it infringes on the minimum standards set by the Bill of the Rights, it will certainly be declared unconstitutional by the courts’.
Still, critics are concerned about the Bill’s broad definition of ‘terror’ and its added empowerment of government agents, which could open up to problems of abuse.
Included in the proposed law is the formation of an Anti-Terror Council, that can tag and order arrests – a function usually reserved for courts. Suspects could also be arrested and detained up to 24 days even without a warrant.