BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Posted Feb. 7, 2007, 3:36 p.m.
Security at the Senate grounds has tightened as the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill is set to go through final reading.
As of this writing, police at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CPP) grounds – of which the Senate building occupies a part – have been stopping fully-loaded jeepneys from entering the Senate premises. A number of individuals on their way to the Senate by foot have been interrogated by the CCP police.
This developed as close to a hundred members of the Bagong-Alyansang Mabakayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and other militant groups were staging a picket right in front of the Senate building against the Anti-Terrorism Bill earlier this afternoon.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill, which human rights groups and civil libertarians have assailed as an “authoritarian measure,” was passed on second reading late last night. It is expected to be rushed and passed on third reading today, the last session day for Congress.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill allows for the proscription of groups labeled as “terrorist” organizations. Critics have charged that the bill defines “terrorism” so broadly that even legal protest actions may be classified as “acts of terrorism.”
The draft Anti-Terrorism Bill also allows for up to 72 hours of detention without charges for suspected “terrorists,” as well as several forms of electronic surveillance.
“The intent of the sponsors of the Anti-Terrorism Bill is to legislate and institutionalize repression in the country,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr.
“What is most worrisome for us is that the Anti-Terrorism Bill will compound and complicate the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” said Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.