By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Bills that various groups have warned as detrimental to human rights are being deliberated in Congress. The House of Representatives deliberated last night on a bill that will make it illegal for anyone to become a member, or to intend to become a member, of any court-proscribed or UN Security Council-designated “terrorist organization.” The “crime” will be punishable by lifetime imprisonment.
In HB 5507 introduced by Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr., mere membership or intent to become a member in so-called terrorist organization will render a person open to warrantless arrest. Unlike the current law governing legal detention after arrest, he or she can be legally detained up to three days without judicial warrant of arrest.
This person can be convicted on the testimony of at least two witnesses.
Espino’s bill carries a provision that if it becomes law and any of its provisions is declared unconstitutional, the other provisions not affected shall remain in force.
If this bill is passed, the government can start making warrantless arrest and detention 15 days after publication. The bill has already passed the House committee deliberation yesterday, February 27. It will be tossed upward to Congress’ Technical Working Group.
On the same date, another bill by Rep. Espino was reportedly deliberated in the same House Committee. Espino is seeking to pass HB 7141, Explanatory Note, to amend the “Human Security Act of 2007” or the terrorism law. Among others, he wants to add three more crimes to the 12 “predicate crimes” already defined in the current terrorism law. The crimes his proposal wants to consider as terrorism include trafficking in persons and dangerous drugs, and cybercrime.
Espino’s proposal is seeking to prolong the current terror law’s fixed penalty of 40 years imprisonment to life imprisonment to death.
Espino is the former governor and now Pangasinan representative. His son has replaced him as governor of Pangasinan. He served also as company commander of the Philippine Constabulary.
In December 2016, Espino received a preventive 90-day suspension for graft over alleged black sand mining in his province. Just three months before his suspension due to graft, President Rodrigo Duterte cleared him of alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison’s (NBP) multi-million peso narcotics ring.
Espino has also authored the bill seeking to establish the Philippine National Identification System. The proposal has been transmitted and received by the Senate September 11 last year. His proposal to declare September 11 a special non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte to commemorate the birth of the former and ousted President Ferdinand Marcos has been approved by the House of Representatives last year.