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Panelo calls Anti-Terrorism Bill critics “cerebrally challenged”

Panelo calls Anti-Terrorism Bill critics “cerebrally challenged”

Last night, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo slams critics of HB 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill, calling them “cerebrally challenged.” 

“Not only is such advocacy a falsehood, it is cerebrally challenged. The Constitution declares the service to the people and their protection as the prime duty of the government,” said Panelo in a statement defending the bill. He also adds that critics are “biased,” “lacking in intellectual insight” and are oblivious to the “grave infinitesimal consequences” of terrorism.

This comes after public uproar against the Anti-Terrorism Bill, along with reputable individuals and organizations raising their concerns. United Nations Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani has said that the bill is “very worrying” because of its wide definition of terrorism, which “may violate the principle of legality under international law.”

“You add to this the context in the Philippines where a lot of human rights organizations are routinely labeled as terrorists, this is very worrying,” said Shamdasani. Recently, the UN has released its human rights report on the Philippines, pointing out the country’s “widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also flagged the bill’s potential to endanger people’s rights. “The Anti-Terrorism Act is a human rights disaster in the making,” says HRW Asia director Phil Robertson. “The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for people or representatives of organizations that have displeased the president.” 

The HRW’s report noted that the law gives power to a council that will primarily be composed of Cabinet officials appointed by Pres. Duterte.

Even the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) have expressed their opposition to the bill, and are currently “feverishly preparing” to constitutionally challenge it. “Based on a restudy and in view of Justice Carpio’s opinion, we can already contest it as soon as it becomes effective,” says NUPL president Edre Olalia.

Prior, retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said that if passed, the Anti-Terrorism Bill could be challenged immediately or “on its face.” The bill is concerned with fundamental constitutional rights, and so a “facial attack” is possible. 

Photo by Joan Bondoc for Inquirer

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