File photo shows Marawi City.
AFP/Ferdinandh Cabrera
Anti-terror bill to restrict civil liberties in the name of security — watchdog
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - February 28, 2020 - 11:53am

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed measure seeking to give more teeth to the country’s anti-terrorism law would disproportionately limit people’s freedoms and rights in the name of security, a human rights watchdog said.

Voting 19-2, the Senate approved on third and final reading Wednesday Senate Bill 1093 or the proposed Anti-Terror Act of 2020, which would effectively repeal the Human Security Act of 2007.

The bill seeks to penalize individuals who will propose, incite, conspire and participate in the planning, training and facilitation of a terrorist act and cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses.

Only opposition lawmakers Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros voted against the measure, saying this can be used to silence dissent.

Amnesty International Philippines said most counter-terrorism measures introduced in other countries have disproportionately limited people’s freedoms of expression and association, liberty and movement as well as the right to privacy.

“The Anti-Terrorism Bill provides few safeguards against abuse and gives law enforcers exhaustive powers, including electronic surveillance that could lead to discriminatory and arbitrary arrest and may result in prolonged detention without charge,” Butch Olano, AI Philippines section director, said.

He added: “If a person is believed to be a threat, law enforcement should investigate, charge and prosecute suspect under existing laws, which do not violate basic rights.”

Under the proposed legislation, a suspected terrorist can be detained without warrant of arrest for 14 days, which is extendable by another 10 days.

“Threats posed by terrorism-related attacks must be dealt with but restricting people’s civil liberties in the name of security in such an arbitrary way as this legislation is contrary to the Philippine government’s obligation under international human rights law,” Olano said.

The proponents of the measure, however, assured that the Commission on Human Rights will be given the mandate to investigate violations of civil and political rights of persons and jurisdiction to prosecute law enforcers who violate the right of detained individuals.

Local rights watchdog Karapatan earlier said this “monster” legislation would provide a pretext for de facto martial law in the country.”

“It will only redound to graver human rights violations against communities, groups and individuals that may lead to crimes against humanity,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

The counterpart measure at the House of Representatives remains pending at the committee on public safety and order.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PHILIPPINES ANTI-TERROR BILL HUMAN SECURITY ACT OF 2007
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