Mayor of rebel-infested Samar town backs anti-terror bill

TACLOBAN CITY – The mayor of the remote town of Matuguinao, Samar has called on critics to look into the plight of villagers in provinces affected by armed struggle before maligning the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Mayor Aran Boller said in a phone interview on Tuesday that families in far-flung communities, who have been suffering from terroristic activities of the New People’s Army (NPA), stand to benefit from the passage of House Bill 6875.

“People who are against the bill do not know the real situation on the ground. Protesters have never experienced what the people here have gone through because of illegal activities of NPA rebels in our town,” Boller told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The mayor recalled that several residents have been victims of extortion, recruitment of minors, indoctrination, deprived of basic education, and distracted economic activities due to the presence of rebels.
In the past, the NPA launched several attacks against government forces, displacing hundreds of families.

He appealed to critics to stop spreading false information that the bill seeks to silence critics since there are existing laws that protect those expressing dissent against the government and conducting peaceful demonstrations.
On June 8, he issued a statement to the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict in response to protests against the passage of the bill.
“I was compelled to issue the statement after I heard that some member of the House of Representatives withdrew their support to the passage of the bill due to pressures from those against the bill. Why we should be scared? We are the legitimate government,” the mayor added.

For several decades, Matuguinao has been known as a hotbed of NPA fighters due to its poor road access. It was only in 2018 when the town got connected to Samar’s main highway after the completion of 21-kilometer Gandara-Matuguinao Road funded by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana).
Of the 20 villages, five far-flung areas are still threatened by sightings of about 20 NPA fighters crossing the boundaries of Samar and Northern Samar provinces.
Ending insurgency has been the priority of the local government as they believe that armed struggle hampered the town’s economic development for decades.
Since the launch of its strong campaign against insurgents, 33 active NPA fighters and 96 die-hard supporters from Matuguinao town have surrendered to the local government and the Philippine Army, Boller said.
The mayor said the passage of the enactment of the landmark legislation that seeks to prevent, prohibit and penalize terrorism, is a big boost to their campaign against insurgency.

The bill introduces provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; possess objects connected with the preparation for the commission of terrorism; or collect or make documents connected with the preparation of terrorism.
Under the bill, any person who will threaten to commit terrorism will suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.
Any person who will voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, will suffer imprisonment of 12 years.
Under the bill, the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendable by 10 days. (PNA)

Source: https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1105345

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