Tougher anti-terror law

August 20, 2019

As terrorism evolves and terrorists level up their bloody, violent rampage, so must our state security forces toughen their response.

In fact, our elite counter-terrorism units must stay so many steps ahead in terms of intelligence, weaponry, technology, and tactics.

But our primary weapon – the law – must also stay relevant and undergo continuous updating to stay ahead of terrorist organizations planning the next attack to sow fear, deal death, and cause massive disruption of our way of life.

While terrorists themselves only speak one language – violence – we as a civilized nation must adhere to lawful means to stop their murderous rampage.

This would entail sharpening the teeth of our existing laws so that terrorists and their leaders are brought to justice.

Freshman Sen. Imee R. Marcos correctly noted that the country's 12-year-old anti-terrorism law must be updated soon to cope with the digital, transnational, and evolving nature of terrorism.,

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," she 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," the lady lawmaker said.

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

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

Senate Bill 630 also seeks to provide 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 her bill, including planning terrorist acts outside the country.