Anti-terror bill would curb human rights, consolidate executive branchâs power â CHR
In this March 16, 2018 photo, militant group Anakpawis holds a protest in front of the Department of Justice.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File
Anti-terror bill would curb human rights, consolidate executive branch’s power — CHR
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - June 3, 2020 - 11:28am

 MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday warned against the Senate’s controversial bill seeking to bolster the country’s anti-terrorism policies.

The CHR released a statement saying the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020’s definition of terrorism “paves the road for possible abuse as it tends to blur the distinction between terroristic activities and ordinary crimes.”

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the bill could be “used to limit substantial freedoms, including expression of dissent and critical perspectives most especially by civil society and human rights groups, under a democracy.” 

De Guia also highlighted that the new bill, which would replace the Human Security Act, would allow the prolonged detention of suspects without a judicial warrant. 

"Prolonged detention under the bill—up to 14 calendar days, with the possibility of extending it to 10 more days—may result to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or torture, which does not only pertain to acts of interrogation, but also conditions experienced by the suspect,” she said. 

The bill also allows authorities to delay the delivery of those they arrest to the proper judicial authorities. This goes against the constitutional guarantee of due process. 

De Guia added that the bill broadens the power of the executive branch to a degree that threatens the check-and-balance mechanism which is meant to prevent abuse. 

On Tuesday evening, the House of Represenatives approved on second reading the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act. This was the same version that the Senate approved on third and final reading last February. 

Malacañang on Tuesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's call to the House of Representatives to fast-track the passage of the bill. 

The Senate version approved back in February was met with criticism from local and international rights groups over provisions said to loosely define terrorism and authorize the widescale violation of human rights in the Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed the country’s anti-terrorism laws were due an upgrade, calling them the “loosest in the world.” He made this claim despite saying in 2007 that the Human Security Act "would legitimize the role of the Philippine president as chief executioner.”

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 14, 2020 - 2:35pm

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Law on July 3 despite opposition from rights groups and civil society groups that it could be used to stifle human rights.

A petition against the law has been filed at the Supreme Court and other groups are preparing pleadings of their own.

Follow this page for updates. Photo courtesy of The STAR/Michael Varcas 

October 14, 2020 - 2:35pm

The Anti-Terrorism Council has aproved the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Anti-Terrorism Law, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirms.

The implementing guidelines were crafted by a technical working group led by the DOJ, he also says.

"We will disseminate copies to the Congress and to law enforcement agencies as required under the law, and will publish the IRR online and in a newspaper of general circulation in the next few days," he says.

August 30, 2020 - 12:47pm

Desaparecidos, an organization made up of families of victims of enforced disappearances, is worried that more may go missing under the anti-terrrorism law.

"We fear that Duterte's terror law will enable State forces to resort to extraordinary measures such as abductions and enforced disappearances like what they did to my daughter to instill fear on its critics and activists as the government spins out of control because of the pandemic and the ailing economy," Erlinda Cadapan, Desaparecidos chairperson and mother of missing University of the Philippines student Sherlyn Cadapan, says in a statement.

She says that Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Act allows detention without charges for up to 24 days "practically opens up the option for State forces to resort to enforce disappearance rather than complying with legal requirements to detain suspects."

August 25, 2020 - 9:30am

The Free Legal Assistance Group, which represents senators and media practitioners in a petition against the Anti-Terrorism Act, urges the Supreme Court to issue a temporart restraining order against the new law.

The group says the statement of Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gilbert Gapay to regulate social media is "repression in broad daylight."

"At the very least, the foregoing statements of the AFP Chief of Staff confirm that the ATA is both so overbroad and vague that it is susceptible to being used for an unconstitutional end, that is a weapon against free speech and dissent," the motion read.

August 24, 2020 - 12:57pm

Solicitor General Jose Calida asks the Supreme Court to cancel the oral arguments on the petitions against the anti-terrorism law.

Calida cites logistical restrictions and health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that oral arguments would entail the presence of members of the Court, at least 300 petitioners and their counsels, 16 OSG lawyers and support staff.

"Further, the sheer number of participants will make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain social distancing within the En Banc Session Hall. In this regard alone, even puttig the matter of the age and health vulnerabilities of some of the participants aside, it is submitted that their physical presence for in-court oral arguments is inadvisable," Calida says in his urgent motion.

August 3, 2020 - 2:47pm

It is not the intention of the anti-terror bill to regulate social media, says Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa), co-author of the anti-terrorism bill that is now a law, on Twitter.

Biazon is reacting to a statement from the military that what it calls a "very, very good law" that is "comprehensive" be applied to social media.

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Law is now being challenged by more than a dozen petitioners at the Supreme Court as it is seen to have vague provisions allowing abuses against rights to free speech, due process and privacy.

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