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Lacson rejects ‘unconstitutional’ tag on warrantless detention in anti-terrorism bill

This undated photo shows Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday again defended the controversial anti-terrorism bill, which he authored and sponsored through Senate debates, from criticisms of unconstitutionality from retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Egon Cayosa.

In a webinar hosted by the Management Association of the Philippines, Lacson said that the provision of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on detention without judicial charges up to 24 days is actually Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s amendment.

Drilon is a lawyer and a former justice secretary.

This was contained in Section 29 of the proposed measure, which is now waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.Under the proposed measure, a person suspected of terrorism may be detained, without judicial charge, up to 14 days, and authorities may ask for another 10-day extension from the court.

Carpio and Cayosa, along with several lawyers’ group, have flagged this as unconstitutional.

On warrantless 'arrest'

Lacson also asserted that the “legislative intent” of the assailed provision was premised on valid warrantless arrests, under Rule 113 Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Under the rules, a warrantless arrest may be done if a person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; if a crime has just been committed; or if the person is an escaped prisoner.

Lacson stressed: “It was never the intention of Congress to amend the rules on warrantless arrest or what we also refer to as citizen’s arrest.”

He also said that Section 29 of the anti-terrorism bill had the same wording as Section 18 of the Human Security Act of 2007—the law that the looming anti-terrorism bill will replace—that he pointed out the Supreme Court did not strike down as unconstitutional.

“The 14-day period is a policy decision of Congress and it is not within the powers or authority of the [Anti-Terrorism Council] to order the detention of an arrested suspected based on valid and lawful warrantless arrest to be detained for 14 days,” Lacson answered when asked at the forum.

"Nothing in this measure says that we are adding another exception or other circumstances, that is the main misconception, because of massive misinterpretation," the lawmaker also said.

Longer period of detention

But legal experts have been pointing out that the looming new law is unconstitutional for allowing warrantless detention for up to 24 days.

Cayosa said that even when martial law is declared, law enforcers are required to bring an arrested person before a court within three days.

Carpio, who was MAP’s resource person in a webinar last week, meanwhile said that the provision “would defeat the purpose of warrantless arrest where time is of the essence and in Rule 113 (on warrantless arrest) the crime is already being committed in the presence of the law enforcement agent and if he still has to secure the written authority from the anti-terrorism council to arrest the offender then that would be senseless.”

The retired SC justice also said: “With the anti-terrorism act as part of the land, it is as if the Philippines is permanently under a situation worse than martial law.”

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte sees nothing wrong with the provision on pre-trial detention.

He added: “Barring constitutional infirmities, he is inclined to sign it but he wants to see the bill want to make a personal determination.

The window time for veto on the bill will end on July 9, or 30 days from when the proposed measure reached Duterte’s desk.

If the president does not veto the bill, it would automatically lapse into law. — Kristine Joy Patag

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.ca

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