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Lacson: Marawi siege could have been prevented if Anti-Terror bill in effect.

By Mario Casayuran

The deadly and protracted Marawi Siege of 2017 could have been prevented had the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 been in effect at the time due to its tough provisions against inchoate offenses as well as its mechanism for cutting off terrorist funding.

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate National Defense and Security Committee, pointed out that the country cannot afford to wait for a repeat of the urban battle that caused massive loss of life and destruction of property.

The five-month Marawi siege is the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines. It started on May 23, 2017.

"Had this measure been in effect earlier instead of the 2007 Human Security Act (HSA), the Marawi Siege could have been prevented. For one, a new feature under this bill is to make punishable inchoate offenses, something not present under the present Human Security Act of 2007," Lacson said at an online forum of the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) on Thursday when asked by Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose 'Bong' Lacson.

Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

''An inchoate offense is a preparatory act punishable even if the desired result of such act has not occurred yet, thus making it an independent crime itself. Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Bill thus penalizes planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism, which are acts performed towards the accomplishment of the desired purpose, which is terrorism,'' he said.

Lacson said the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) provides for a mechanism to prevent terrorist groups from accessing their funding by freezing their accounts.

The ATB passed by both Houses of Congress has been transmitted to President Duterte who has the constitutional prerogative to approve or veto it. The bill automatically becomes a law when the President does not act on it in 30 days

"While we have already the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, it has no mechanism to prevent terrorist financing. The Anti-Terrorism Bill has a mechanism to trigger a freeze order by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) cupon the request of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC)," he said.

Lacson emphasized that such provisions in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 allow law enforcers to act proactively and nip terrorism in the bud.

More importantly, Lacson said these provisions in the ATB will allow authorities to act on intelligence reports on potential terrorist activity.

"What happened in Marawi was not a lack of intelligence. They had enough intelligence but they could not act because the HSA of 2007 is toothless and rendered a dead-letter law," he said.

"The loss of hundreds of lives and the massive destruction of properties could have been prevented in Marawi City with an Anti-Terrorism Law stronger and more effective than the toothless dead-letter law like the Human Security Act of 2007," he added.

Governors at Thursday's forum expressed overwhelming support for the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

LPP president and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. said that "a big majority of governors fully supported the eventual, I believe, passage of the bill into law."

Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua stated that the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines(ULAP) has released its "supportive statement" for the government's efforts against terrorism.

Palawan Governor Jose "Pepito" Alvarez said it is high time the Anti-Terrorism Bill is passed into law, especially since terrorism threatens tourism in Region 4-A (CALABARZON).

"Tourism and terrorism do not come together. Sen. Ping, tulungan mo kami rito. We need this bill signed into law as soon as possible," Alvarez said.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba added that a strong anti-terrorism measure is "long overdue," citing the threat of the New People's Army (NPA) in his province.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, meanwhile, said the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 "will be our national declaration of war versus terrorists both local and foreign, but never against peace- and freedom-loving Filipinos and peoples."

"This (governors' views) is contrary to another disinformation campaign that they were pressured to come up with resolutions and manifestos of support for the bill," Lacson noted.

CAPTION(S):

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National; Panfilo Lacson
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 26, 2020
Words:702
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