Press Release
September 6, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the delay in the approval of the Anti-Terrorism Act does not mean that the government is not helpless in combating terrorists since many of the criminal offenses that they commit are punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

Pimentel said for instance that local law enforcement authorities were able to uncover a plot by international terrorists to bomb United States-bound commercial planes and to arrest the key players in the plot long before the Al Qaeda bombings of the World Trade Center and other US targets on Sept. 11, 2001.

At present, many of the criminal acts perpetrated by terrorists are already covered by the Revised Penal Code. But in crafting an Anti-Terrorism Act, we may more or less be repeating provisions of the Revised Penal Code on certain criminal offenses, he said.

He said while he recognizes the importance of an Anti-Terrorism Act, it should be cleansed of features or provisions that would unnecessarily jeopardize the civil liberties of the people should be discarded.

If we pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill now without adequate safeguards against possible abuses, we are bound to regret it later, the minority leader said.

Pimentel said the consequences of approving a flawed Anti-Terrorism Act are too frightening to imagine in the light of rampant human rights violations such as the spate of extra-judicial killings of political activists and journalists.

He said the minority bloc is glad that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, sponsor of the Anti-Terrorism Act, has agreed to scrap a provision in the measure that would justify the arrest of a person and his detention for at least 15 days even without formal criminal charges on the basis of mere information or complaint of somebody that the suspect is engaged in terrorist activities.

Under the bill, he said the 15-day detention of a suspect may be extended on the ground that more time is needed to gather or present witnesses and other evidence against the suspect.

Pimentel said the Senate will not commit the mistake of the House of Representatives which railroaded the passage of the Anti-Terrorist Act at the expense of the right of opposition congressmen to propose amendments in order to please Malacañang .

He assailed the legislative allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who apparently believe that the more powers they grant her, the better for themselves, but not necessarily for the nation.

In other words, we are scrutinizing the bill not for the sake of delaying it but because we want to make sure that it will not bring harm or danger especially to the ordinary citizens, the minority leader said.

Pimentel doubted whether the Malacañang -certified bill will be approved in time for the sixth anniversary observance of the 9-11 terrorist bombings in the US on Sept. 11 pointing out that a number of senators have yet to take their turn in interpellating the sponsor of the measure.

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