Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said on Wednesday that a suspected Indonesian suicide bomber who was arrested in Sulu over the weekend looms as a potential test case for the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, particularly its provision penalizing “inchoate offenses.”
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, noted that the bombs and other items seized from Nana Isirani (a.k.a. Rezky Fantasya Rullie or Cici) indicated she was preparing to take part in a terrorist attack.
Rullie was arrested with two other women believed to be wives of Abu Sayyaf members in Jolo, Sulu last Oct. 10.
Authorities confiscated items including an improvised explosive device disguised as a vest, container pipes, and a nine-volt battery.
“This is one example of an inchoate offense made punishable under the new Anti-Terrorism Law. By including inchoate offenses as punishable acts under the new measure, we are criminalizing the foregoing acts of the arrested suspects which include planning, preparation, and facilitation of terrorism and possession of objects with knowledge or intent that these are to be used in the preparation for the commission of terrorism,” Lacson said in his speech before the Philippine Army Multi-Sector Advisory Board Summit.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate National Defense Committee, sponsored the anti-terrorism measure in the Senate.
He pointed out one of the new features of the Anti-Terrorism Law (Republic Act 11479) is the penalizing of “inchoate offenses,” or preparatory acts that are deemed criminal even without the actual harm being done, provided that the harm that would have occurred is one that the law tries to prevent, such as terrorism.
This new feature aims to prevent terrorism even before the actual commission of the violent terrorist act by making, planning, preparing, and facilitating acts of terrorism as independent criminal acts already punishable by reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) without the benefit of parole.
Penalizing inchoate offenses is made pursuant to the mandate under the United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1373, which states that planning and preparation, among others, are established as serious criminal offenses in domestic laws and that the punishment should duly reflect the seriousness of such terrorist acts.
Lacson also said he was informed Monday night by the police investigators that Sulu Provincial Prosecutor Anna Marie Pierreangeli Ledesma had advised against the filing of cases under the new anti-terrorism law pending the release of the IRR.
Ledesma recommended instead the filing of a case in violation of Republic Act 9516 or illegal possession of explosives against Rullie.
When he learned of Ledesma’s recommendation, Lacson became concerned and contacted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who assured him he would issue the proper guidance to the provincial prosecutor in filing charges against Rullie.
“(Secretary Guevarra told me) he stands by his earlier pronouncement that the Anti-Terrorism Law is already in effect upon its publication on July 18, 2020, and its application is not dependent upon the issuance of the IRR,” Lacson said.
He added that Guevarra called the Prosecutor General to instruct the provincial prosecutor in this regard.
Lacson reiterated that while the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 gives authorities the legal backbone to fight terrorism, it also puts a premium on respect for the rule of law and constitutional liberties such as the right to due process.