Press Release
July 20, 2020

Transcript of Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on The Source with Pinky Webb of CNN Philippines

On the Anti-Terrorism Law

Q: Are you looking at the growing concern regarding the law?

SP Sotto: I know for a fact that there is nothing unconstitutional in the law. In fact, during the drafting and the amendments and during the period of interpellations, the committee consulted constitutionalists and we consulted experts not only on terrorism but other laws that might be misconstrued. I think the main cause of this dissent is because of misinformation. There are a number of issues that I have seen on social media that are not in the law. Most of what they are saying is not in the law. Probably those who started the ball rolling against the anti-terrorism law is just against the, either against the government, or they are afraid it might be abused, but there are proper safeguards. As a matter of fact, the law is flooded with safeguards. That's why I am very confident that the Supreme Court will not strike it down.

Q: The CBCP very recently issued a pastoral statement regarding what they call is a pattern of intimidation detrimental to the freedom of expression. This is with regards to the anti-terror law and of course the shut-down of ABS-CBN. Having the CBCP coming out with a quite strongly pastoral letter statement, again, isn't it time to maybe look into the concern or the fear of some?

SP Sotto: I do not know why they are associating the ABS-CBN problem with the anti-terrorism law, if that has anything to do at all. Now, the point being raised that I read was that it is against freedom of expression, or freedom of assembly. It means that they have not read the law. They have not specifically centered on Section 4 of the law because if you do you will see that that is the catch-all safeguard for all these type of freedoms that they are mentioning. Very clear, we made it a point that shall not, shall not. Yun ang maliwanag, when you use shall in the law, it means it is imperative, ano? Shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action or other similar exercises of civil and political rights. Maliwanag yun. Pag sinabi mo you are worried like which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person then it causes physical (unclear), no, it is not classified as that. If you are having a protest or a rally and there is a riot and some people get hurt, and the people to blame will be charged in the revised penal code, not in the anti-terrorism law. That is very specific, they should read it.

Q: What you are basically saying is what is not considered terrorism as you read a while ago which forms part of Section 4, which is under what are the, who can be tagged as terrorist, what are the acts of terrorism. There are a number of those and then doon po sa ilalim, doon nakasulat yung provided that terrorism as defined in this section shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, etc. Very clearly, what you are trying to tell me, pag nagkaroon ng rally, protesta on a particular issue, nagkagulo doon sa protestang yun, meron pong namatay o merong nasaktan, this will not fall in any way or form as an act of terrorism?

SP Sotto: No, not at all. It is very clear, very specific. In order to be considered an act of terrorism, the intent and purpose taken must be established. (Unclear) of the enumerated acts, without the underlying purpose, any act without the underlying purpose of terrorism, the violations will be under the revised penal code or other special laws, not as acts of terrorism. That is very clear.

Q: Which leads me to my next question. I know that you are saying this, Sen. Ping Lacson was saying this as well, yung intent or purpose. The question is who decides what the intent in, and the purpose?

SP Sotto: The answer is the situation. They are blaming, they are saying it going to be the Anti-Terrorism Council that will say that, no. The facts, what happens, or what happened, will determine, and there will be the courts to determine, not the Anti-Terrorism Council. The Anti-Terrorism Council has no power to do that. Again that is another mistake by those who are against the Anti-Terrorism Council which has been there since 2003. The Anti-Terrorism Council is already there since the Human Security Act which was a dead letter law.

Q: The Human Security Act f 2007 so the intent, yan p will be determined by the courts, that is what you are saying.

SP Sotto: Yes.

Q: In the meantime, let me just add this, while it is being considered by the court for judgement, what happens to these people who are part of this protest or this rally, there was harm, bodily injury, or death?

SP Sotto: There are specific laws, special laws already in the revised penal code that covers all that. It will not fall under terrorism. I think that is the point that most of them are saying, ika-classify lahat agad sa terrorism? Sila ang nagka-classify, hindi naman batas. The ones who are saying against the law are the ones who are saying they can be classified under the anti-terrorism law. It's not, they are not going to be classified as far as the law is concerned. Sila ang nagka-classify ng sarili nila na kasama sila sa terrorism but they are not. Even on the first day that the protests were coming out, I saw some person holding a placard saying activism is not terrorism, sabi ko sino ang may sabi na terrorism an activism, hindi ba? Wala naman nagsasabing ganoon, it is not even in the law. As a matter of fact, activism is not, already, ang liwanag, nasa batas, hindi kasama. Wala, talaga ang tingin ko ano lang, ang pinakamaganda is for us to wait for the decision of the Supreme Court because we are very confident that if they read through the law and look into the records of the journal of both Houses of Congress, they will see that there (unclear) is a very, sabi nga, plain sight law that is targeted specifically for terrorism because terrorism in the country today is at its peak, especially in the south.

Q: When you talk about activism is not terrorism and you are saying that it is clear, activism is not terrorism, here is one point that could be raised. Yung Malaybalay police, they released an infographic on social media that pointed to people who were rallying for press freedom, for the franchise of ABS-CBN, as engaged in terrorism.

SP Sotto: Who said that?

Q: The Malaybalay police pero they apologized. They posted this on social media. Meron silang placards defend press freedom, and then at the side, it says malalaman mong sila ay para sa terrorismo, papatulan lahat ng issue basta laban sa gobyerno.

SP Sotto: Sino ang nagsabi noon?

Q: It was posted on Facebook.

SP Sotto: We should not believe everything we see on Facebook, hindi ba? We should not believe everything we see in Facebook, and then the guy who placed that was playing safe, because he used parang. The way you read it, sabi mo parang and therefore he places a doubt already in his statement. Parang lang pala eh.

Q: No, not parang, malalaman mong sila ay para sa terrorismo. Papatulan lahat ng issue, basta laban sa gobyerno. I am gonna send that to you on Viber.

SP Sotto: Sige. But again, as I said, huwag natin patulan lahat ng nakikita natin sa Facebook. It is not government who said that, it is not the courts who said that. On the issue of terrorism, the courts are supreme and very clear in the law.

Q: But it is also true that it is the police who will implement it?

SP Sotto: Depende, because more specifically in the south, it is the Armed Forces, the AFP. Yes, of course, when it comes to peace and order, the police will be involved, but may pananagutan sila, mas mahigpit ang pananagutan nila, di ba? Oras na nagkamali sila, as a matter of fact, what we incorporated, this is not found in any other anti-terrorism law in the world. It is only in the Philippines, this kind of safeguard which says that if a person is arrested for terrorism, the arresting officer must inform immediately a court, the nearest court, and the Commission on Human Rights. Hindi lang siya ang sasabit, pati ang superiors niya, sasabit. This is the only provision that can be found only in the Anti-Terrorism Law of the Philippines, not in the other parts of the world. The other countries, they are stricter than ours, yung atin ang pinaka conservative. Nagtataka nga ako bakit may mga nakikisamang mga foreigner na nagcocomplain, they are even coming out against the Anti-Terrorism Law of the Philippines when their anti-terrorism law are harsher than ours and then as longer yung detention nila. So really, this is something else. I think it's anti-government ang mas nakakarami.

Q: I guess you are referring to the at least 45 American lawmakers who have actually called upon the Philippine government to immediately repeal this controversial anti-terrorism act?

SP Sotto: Correct. Not only that, meron ding mga Fil-Ams or may mga Australian-Filipinos na ang iniisip nila ay pinipintasan yung anti-terror law ng Pilipinas, samantalang yung anti-terrorism lang ng Australia ay mas mahigpit. Lalo na yung sa U.S. These U.S. congressmen must investigate their Homeland Security Law where they can be arrested by the mere hitsura pa lang. Pag hindi nagustuhan ang hitsura mo pwede kang arestuhin and then you will be brought to even Guantanamo Bay, hind ipapaalam sa korte, hindi katulad nung sa atin. At saka ano ang nangyayari doon? May waterboarding, merong kung anu-ano, kung anu-ano ang ginagawang torture. Meron ba sa atin noon? Pero maliwanag doon sa homeland security law nila, ang higpit, why are these congressmen n centering on their laws that (unclear)? Why pick on the Philippines when we have the most conservative anti-terror law in the world. They want us to remain as the haven of terrorists? That is what is happening now, it is pretty much what happened to the issue of drug trafficking. Since the time that we removed death penalty in the Philippines, when it comes to high-level drug trafficking, we became the haven of these manufacturers of illegal drugs sapagkat all other countries around us, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Thailand, all these, they have death penalty for drug trafficking, tayo lang ang wala. So what did they do? They manufacture here. In the same way acts of terrorism if you will recall there were a number of terrorists and terrorism acts that have happened in this part of Asia and the jump off from the Philippines. You can check with the AFP if you are not familiar with these reports from the intelligence or the ISAFP.

Q: A comment from Martin Aviles on Facebook, ang sabi po niya it is a question of trust. The people do not trust the government.

SP Sotto: It is very subjective, the fellow is right. Those who are protesting against the law do not trust the government. It's as simple as that, he is correct, but we should not, we must not mistrust our government. Hintayin mo muna, kung nakita natin may hindi ginawang masama, di ba? Madali yan. I have an answer for this, the same answer that I gave when the people were complaining about BARMM. Yung nirereklamo nila na baka daw pag ginawang autonomous yung BARMM and all that, tapos we are giving them P75 billion a year, (unclear) reklamo, baka bibili lang ng armas. We even placed safeguards already but they say that. It's trust, it is because of trust. So I said, the answer is simple, eh di irepeal. It is only a law, it is not in the constitution. Eh di irepeal natin. Therefor, what I am saying as far as the anti-terrorism law is concerned, pag nakita nating inabuso and we mistrust the government in implementing and executing this, repeal the law. Pero now, nandoon pa lang tayo (unclear) implementation, we are trying to catch up with the rest of the world, because in the rest of the world, tayo lang ang kasama, Philippines lang in this part of the world ang kasama doon sa top 10 na ang kapitbahay natin don sa as far as coddling terrorists are concerned, that is the way they termed it, is that Iran, Iraq, Congo, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Philippines, kasama tayo doon because hindi natin hinaharap yung problema ng terrorism at yung human security act natin after so many years, iisa lang ang conviction. At saka yung conviction na yun ay mukhang nakapag bail pa. So, tingnan muna natin. Let us try not to mistrust our government.

On the ABS-CBN franchise.

Q: Meron pa po ba kayong nakikitang legal remedies for ABS-CBN or is this the end for them?

SP Sotto: It is all in the hands of the House of Representatives. It is very clear in the constitution, private bills must emanate from the House of Representatives exclusively. The word in the constitution is exclusively and a franchise of a company, of a broadcast station company is a private bill, so it is in the hands. The bills that have been filed on the ABS franchise I think were tabled by the committee. So it's only in the hands of the House of Representatives. The Senate cannot do anything about it, the Executive Department cannot do anything about it, it is their prerogative, specified by the constitution.

Q: There is a lot of talk, may lumabas na Zoom meeting si Cong. Defensor, Marcoleta, Remulla, a lot of things. What do you make of all this? Do you feel that this needs to be something to be pursued of at all?

SP Sotto: What I can say is that they should concentrate on the reconstitution of their land title because when I was vice-mayor of Quezon City in 1989 or 1990, there was a fire in the Quezon City Hall. There was a fire, I am not sure now, it was ages ago, but the entire floor of the Register of Deeds was burned down. That was what happened as a matter of fact I was the acting mayor because Mayor Simon was abroad. After that, Quezon City residents and real property owners were asked to reconstitute. As a matter of fact my property, the house and the land of my wife in Quezon City, we had to reconstitute. It took us one or two years but the local government then made representation with the Register of Deeds to facilitate it kasi dati court ang (unclear) ng reconstitution and we had a specific ordinance to allow such and such. We asked the national government to allow (unclear) reconstitution. (Unclear) what, thirty years ago? They should have reconstituted para nawala yung isang problema nila katulad noon. And there are other issues, I am not too familiar with it because I have really tried to avoid dipping my finger into the issue or the controversy because once it reaches us, then it will be part of our jurisdiction kaya mas mabuting hindi kami nagsasalita kung tutuusin.

Q: I think ang sinabi ninyo lang, pag magkaroon ng people's initiative ang sabi ninyo pipirma kayo.

SP Sotto: Yes, because ang sinasabi ko I really doubt the possibility because people's initiative does not include private bills eh a franchise of a certain company or corporation is a private bill kaya kung ako (unclear) sila ng (unclear), because I already told them that if it reaches the Senate I will vote in favor of the franchise. That's why I said (unclear) you think you can (unclear) people's initiative on this which I seriously doubt, it is not part of the constitution, it is not allowed. But if so, alright, I will sign.

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