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PHILIPPINES Manila to amend law against terrorism

Experts describe previous Human Security Act as inadequate, particularly on financing

By Gilbert P. Felongco, Correspondent
July 25, 2012

Manila: A top palace official said the government has modified its law against terrorism to make it more effective.

Speaking to participants of the 7th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-Japan Counter-Terrorism Dialogue on Wednesday in Cebu, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr said changes had been made in the Philippines’ anti-terror law to effectively address terrorism.

It can be recalled that after several years in waiting, the Philippines passed the Human Security Act (HSA), a landmark law against terrorism in 2007.

But while the HSA addresses the country’s concerns on terrorism, experts said it is still inadequate to effectively address the issue. They said lawbreakers continue to seek refuge under the country’s relatively lax rules on banking to flout the law, particularly those involving terror financing.

But, according to Ochoa Jr, two measures had recently been passed by Congress to address these concerns.

“The goal of these amendments is to strengthen the law so that it can be used as a tool by law enforcement agencies to thwart terrorism,” Ochoa said.

He said that while the capability of terror organisations has waned and the number of militants has decreased, the world must keep its vigilance because the threats of terrorism remain and are very real.

As part of the Administration’s ongoing contribution to the global response to these threats, Ochoa told participants that President Benigno Aquino III has signed last week two laws — An Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Money Law and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 — to boost domestic capability in identifying and preventing financial transactions related to illegal activities and those that undermine global security.

“To complement these initiatives”, he said, the government “has put in place a three-pronged strategy to combat terrorism within the Philippine borders which is aligned with the frameworks adopted in other countries.”

These steps include: Effective law enforcement by strengthening the regulatory regimes for firearms and explosives and financing terrorism, and the arrest and neutralization of the human tools or perpetrators behind terrorist acts; Stronger institutional mechanisms and enhanced capabilities of law enforcement agencies and security agencies, and active participation in international cooperation against terrorism; and De-radicalization or counter-radicalization of the intent to commit terror acts by addressing poverty and poor education, which are considered roots of the problem.

“In these initiatives, you are guaranteed of the support of our President who recognizes the importance of addressing the threat of terrorism and is aware that a holistic approach to the problem will produce positive results,” Ochoa said.

At the same time, Ochoa lauded Japan and ASEAN member-states for taking the lead in organizing the dialogue on counter-terrorism to put forward the implementation of joint projects in transport security, border control and immigration, maritime security, public involvement in countering terrorism, and capacity building on legal affairs.

“Without a doubt, all of the nation-states here possess the political will to defeat terrorism; all of us want to secure borders and ensure the safety of our people,” Ochoa said.

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