Press Release
November 5, 2019

Co-Sponsorship Speech COMMITTEE REPORT NO. 9
Senate Bill No. 1083 - Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019

Good afternoon, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues:

Today, it is my privilege to co-sponsor a bill that will amend a law to ensure protection of all Filipinos from an evil that has caused so much pain and suffering; a destructive force that has no regard for innocent lives; the phenomenon that is--- terrorism.

Mr. President, I am referring to Senate Bill No. 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019 under Committee Report No. 9 which was first presented to this august body by Senator Panfilo Lacson as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace Unification and Reconciliation.

Mr. President, sometime in 2016, a gruesome video showing three men standing with their knives, each positioned to slit the throat of three kneeling captives circulated on social media platforms. The only audio that can be heard from the video is the voice of the man at the center uttering words in support of a terrorist organization and waging war against law enforcement agencies in Asia. After this man's utterances, they beheaded the said captives.

Unknown to most of us, the man in the center of the video, who seems to be the leader of the trio, is a Filipino and a registered voter of a barangay located in the southern part of the country. He is Mohamed Kiram Reza. It was found out that in 2012, after his bomb-making training abroad, he was able to recruit fellow Filipinos to join their organization which aims to sow terror in the country as motivated by Osama Bin Laden's video on the 9/11 attack in the United States of America. In 2015, his organization, Dawlaa islamiya, pledged their support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and he was able to travel to Syria. The following year, he appeared on the video I showed to you earlier. A Filipino turned terrorist.

Mr. President, before he made the video, we had already apprehended him as a suspected terrorist when I was still the Davao City Police Director in December of 2013. We have monitored all of his moves. Including that of an occasion when he, together with his wife and son, visited the hotel room of a known Jemaah Al Islamiya member and Malaysian suicide bomber named Mohammed Nor Fikrie. Fikrie was later neutralized by my SWAT team when he was about to detonate himself inside a crowded restaurant in Davao City.

However, since the military and police intelligence could not provide us sufficient evidence to prove his terrorist activities before the lapse of the allowable detention period, we were forced to release him. If only we had been allowed then to detain him for at least a week in order to build a solid case against him as a terrorist, he would not have had the opportunity to commit more terror acts.

In 2018, he was included in the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The UN Security Council also designated him under the ISIS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions List. Moreover, this man is included in the INTERPOL Red Notice list in April 2019.

Despite his notoriety as a terrorist, in 2018, our law enforcement agency was only able to file a case against him for the crime of Inciting to Sedition in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 for the very video I showed to you.

Imagine, a person Specially Designated as Global Terrorist was charged only with a crime beyond arms-length of our current anti-terrorism law or the Human Security Act of 2007.

The other terrorist in the video who was standing on the right side of Reza was identified as Mohamed Saifudin Faiz, an Indonesian national who spent most of his adult life in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. He was arrested by PNP Intelligence Group operatives in Zamboanga City last 2005 but was released in 2015 after the dismissal of cases filed against him. He was later on deported to Indonesia and eventually joined the ISIS in Al-Raccah, Iraq.

There lies our problem, Mr. President. Our law against terrorism is so soft that it is almost tantamount to tolerance. We do not tolerate acts of terrorism. We must let it be known to the world that we are in solidarity in the global fight against terrorism and this stand should materialize in legislation.

The most advanced weaponry budget can provide is worthless if our law enforcers' hands are tied because the law restricts them to be more aggressive in their cause against terrorism. It is the terrorists that should fear the law and not our law enforcers who are always under threat of law suits for violating rights of suspected terrorists.

I fully agree with the statement of Senator Panfilo Lacson when he said during his sponsorship speech that it is "Only in the Philippines--as the expression goes--where the anti- terrorism law has literally more provisions restricting our law enforcers than bringing terrorists to justice."

Mr. President, to bolster the fact that we are in urgent need to update and amend our anti-terrorism legislation, let me state for the record that in 2017, the Philippines was ranked as the 12th country in the world with the highest impact of terrorism. Unfortunately, in 2018, our Global Terrorism Index ranking became worse. We are now the 10th country most impacted by terrorism - this is a list where we do not want to be included, not in the top 15 and not even in the top 100.

With our ranking, the Institute for Economics and Peace recorded 2,869 deaths due to terror attacks in the country since 2001; 326 of which was from 2017 - our highest recorded number of deaths in more than a decade. They recognized the New People's Army, and the two groups which have declared their allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute, as the major terrorist groups in the country.

Mr. President, with thousands of Filipinos who have died and the properties that have been destroyed by the acts of these terrorist groups, the economic impact of terrorism in our country has already taken its toll on our goal of sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We will not prosper economically and the improvement of the lives of our people will be hindered if we will not be able to ultimately prevent the terror acts in our land.

The Executive Department in declaring Martial Law in Mindanao intends to suppress the acts of terrorists in the areas. It has been extended twice. It has achieved and served its purpose in suppressing terrorism for the time being, but we need a more permanent solution when the declaration expires once again. As legislators, we do not only provide our military and police the weapons to combat terrorism by increasing their budget but also arm them with the necessary laws that shall further empower them in implementing peace and order.

The declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao is not enough to address the potential magnitude of destruction that may be brought about by the evil minds of these terrorists, Mr. President. What we need, to complement the efforts of the executive department, is to enact a new law, a law that will revive and strengthen our anti-terrorism legislation. With this, our law will capacitate and enable our law enforcers to effectively investigate and prosecute those who have committed acts of terror.

Mr. President, with the numerous amendments introduced by Senate Bill No. 1083 to our current anti-terrorism law, I would like to give emphasis on the proposed amendment to increase the detention days of a suspected person without warrant of arrest. Sen. Lacson mentioned and as stated in Senate Bill No. 1803, from three days, the allowable detention period outside a warrant of arrest will be a non-extendible period of 14 working days. I fully support this, Mr. President, I will even support a period longer than 14 days.

If only time was on our side when we apprehended the Filipino terrorist in the video I showed to you earlier, we could have killed the cancer before it grew. Let us not allow technicalities to get in the way of quelling and ultimately eliminating terrorism. We are dealing with a new breed of criminals. Criminals that are wise enough to run for protection under the very same law that intends to persecute them.

Terrorism thrives because of fear. And so, we remove fear. We are not afraid.

The enactment of the new anti-terrorism law will be very timely to fully prepare us with the move of the Kurdish government to repatriate the imprisoned foreign ISIS fighters back to their home countries including Filipino ISIS fighters as a result of US Forces withdrawal from the previously ISIS- controlled areas. We are in need of a new and effective law that will help us confront treacherous enemies. Sadly, they are countrymen who chose the path of evil - returning Filipino fighters and all other returning foreign-trained fighters from other countries and will bring home senseless war to Mindanao which they view as a safe haven for terrorists for various reasons including a weak anti-terror policy. A law that will provide the necessary mechanism to control and perhaps aptly prosecute them for the terrorist acts they have committed and plan to commit.

After the 9/11 terror attack, it was exposed that the United States, which some consider the most powerful country in the world, is not safe from attacks. Terrorism has become a global phenomenon that it has sown fear and insecurity in everyone. The war against terror here in our country is a contribution to the tireless efforts of other nations to defeat this evil.

Having said these, Mr. President, dear colleagues, I appeal to this honorable body for the swift passage of the Anti- Terrorism Act of 2019. Time is of the essence in preventing these terror attacks. Let's not waste more precious seconds. It is about time that the government intensifies its efforts and protect the citizenry against the evil acts of terrorist groups.

Thank you very much.

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