DND chief wants 60-day detention for terror suspects
MANILA, Philippines — Security officials want authority to hold a terror suspect for interrogation for up to 60 days without filing a case.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana aired the proposal yesterday at a joint public hearing of the Senate committees on national defense and security and on finance presided over by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. The proposal will require amending Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, which allows terror suspects to be held without charges for up to 36 hours.
Lorenzana said law enforcers need more time to build up their cases against suspected terrorists.
“Yung 30 days are not enough. Yung 60 days po ay two months lang,” Lorenzana told the senators.
Lacson said the hearing was meant to discuss Senate Bills 6, 21 and 630, or the Prevention to Terrorism Act seeking to amend RA 9372.
“I want this measure to be the first to be tackled on the floor para maipasa. And I would like to ask you if your commitment to recommend to the President the lifting of martial law once this measure is passed, you made that commitment last year,” Lacson said.
“This (Prevention to Terrorism Act) proposed is much, much stronger than martial law that we are using now,” he added.
An amendment to HSA is being sought as lawmakers and security officials acknowledged the Philippines’ having the weakest laws against terrorism in the world.
Lacson said he wanted inputs from security officials regarding proposals to increase the reglementary period of detention of persons suspected of being terrorists.
“We are looking into increasing the reglementary period of detention from the usual 36 hours 14 days with an option to extend it to another 15 days. Now you are asking to further increase the reglementary period from 14 days to 30 days and further extendable to 60 days,” he said.
Lacson said he is hoping that the country will not experience another Marawi siege or another church attack involving suicide bombers.
“We never had experienced this (suicide bombings) before – a Filipino suicide bomber. We had never imagined this. Suicide bombing mission is usually carried out by foreigners. Times have changed. Radicalism, extremism is right on our shores. So I hope there will be no other bombing incident. Until we wake up to the reality that we need strong anti-terror law in the country,” he added.
Lacson also stressed any amendment should remove provision on predicate crime, saying “terrorist act is a terrorist act.”
For his part, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said there had been three suicide bombing attacks in Mindanao, two in Sulu and one in Basilan, in less than a year.
Esperon said intelligence sources indicated that due to the collapse of the Islamic State or Daesh in Syria and Iraq, terrorist fighters have been returning to their countries of origin to continue their reign of terror.
“Evolving strategies by their terrorist groups demand that we, in the security sector, should be able to adjust and take initiatives in order to counter these terror groups,” Esperon said.
“It is unfortunate to note that the current version of HSA contains loopholes and obstacles that prevent the security sector from establishing deterrence through effective criminal prosecution against suspected terrorists,” he added.
He said the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has adopted a national action plan for preventing violent extremism, covering vulnerable sectors like social media, schools and madrasas, religious leaders, OFW and religious scholars, detained persons or prisons that could be sources of future terrorists.
“The proposed amendment to the HSA in an integral to the institutional framework that the security sector requires to thwart the spread of terrorism in the Philippines. The proposed bills provide for the means to counteract the wide spectrum of terrorist activities through and by involving different government offices,” Esperon added.
Also at the hearing, National Intelligence Council Agency (NICA) director general Alex Paul Monteagudo said terror groups are recruiting children 10 to 12 years old.
“Terrorist have to be detained because if we let them loose, they will infect the rest of society. They are going to radicalize young children. And therefore we need laws that will allow us prerogative to hold them longer and even extend that period just like in Singapore which can hold indefinitely a person they believe to be terrorist,” Monteagudo said.
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