Cong. Hector Sanchez “too busy” to explain side on Anti-Terror Bill

Catanduanes Congressman Hector S. Sanchez’s busy schedule in the House of Representatives is keeping him from sharing his thoughts on his support for the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill last week.

He apologized to the Tribune for his being unable to answer the paper’s query on his reasons for sponsoring the controversial bill, saying that since that morning of the query, he had been attending committee hearings that would last until the afternoon.

Rep. Sanchez is listed as one of the principal authors of House Bill 6875, a virtual copy of the Senate Bill No. 1083 which the upper chamber passed in February.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was passed the other Wednesday, June 3, by a vote of 173-31, with 29 abstentions.

Proponents say it would provide a strong legal backbone to support the country’s criminal justice response to terrorism, provide the law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from the threat of terrorism and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

On the other hand, human rights groups and other critics claim the counterterrorism law that will eliminate critical legal protections and permit government overreach against groups and individuals labeled terrorists.

Describing it as a “human rights disaster in the making,” the Human Rights Watch said the draft law uses an overbroad definition of terrorism that can subject suspects, apprehended without a warrant, to weeks of detention prior to an appearance before a judge. A special body composed mainly of Cabinet officials appointed by the president would provide the authority to enforce the law, it pointed out.

The following day after the anti-terror bill’s enactment, the House of Representatives approved on final reading a bill allocating P1.5 billion for infrastructure projects in priority sectors, with 210 solons voting yes while seven said no.

With Cong. Sanchez also one of the principal authors along with TGP Rep. Jose Teves Jr., House Bill No. 6920, or “The COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020,” aims to fund the implementation of infrastructure projects in the health, education, agriculture, and local roads/infrastructure livelihood sectors.

Proposed infrastructure projects include barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, digital equipment for COVID-19 testing, telemedicine services to post-harvest facilities, trading centers, and farm-to-market roads.

With a P500-billion funding to be appropriated annually for three years, the measure is intended to complement the “Balik Probinsya Program” which seeks to decongest Metro Manila.

The proposed measure is part of the P1.3-trillion economic stimulus package that congressmen passed on June 4, 2020.

It may be recalled that last April, the Department of Budget Management (DBM) realigned P30 billion in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget to fund the “Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities” intended to boost local government units’ capacity to respond to the COVID-19 situation.

The grant was sourced from the “discontinuance” of DPWH infrastructure projects classified as “For Later Release” under the FY 2020 General Appropriations Act.

The discontinued projects has ballooned to P121 billion, reports say, including the legislators’ alleged “insertions” worth at least P80 billion in the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget for “pet projects” in their own congressional districts.

In Catanduanes, funding for at least 20 infrastructure projects were affected by the budget cuts, including several buildings and road improvement projects in various towns.

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