Anti-Terrorism Law takes effect today

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Anti-Terrorism Law takes effect today
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act becomes effective 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette and national newspapers on July 3.
AFP / Aileen Dimatatac

MANILA, Philippines  — Denounced on several fronts and challenged before the Supreme Court, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 takes effect today – even in the absence of implementing rules and regulations.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act becomes effective 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette and national newspapers on July 3.

“Considering that the law was published on July 3, it will take effect on July 18, which is the 15th day,” Guevarra told reporters yesterday as he rectified an earlier statement that the law would take effect tomorrow, Sunday.

He said drafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) is “just about to start” and will be ready within 90 days.

“The law will take effect even without the IRR because the promulgation of the IRR is not a condition for the effectivity of the law. Some provisions are self-executing, like the organization of the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council),” he said.

The IRR will be prepared in consultation with law enforcement agencies and the military, he said.

“But there are provisions where operational details need to be spelled out or standards clearly defined in the IRR for a proper implementation of the law,” he pointed out.

Manila Auxiliary and apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo said there’s nothing else to do at the moment but to wait and see how the government would implement the law.

Pabillo, a critic of the anti-terrorism law, said he and the other clergy were hoping “safeguards” in the law against abuses would work.

“Let’s see how the government will implement the law and how effective its safeguards will be. There are (petitions with the Supreme Court against the law), so we’ll see if the SC will exercise independence,” Pabillo said mostly in Filipino.

Various groups have filed at least nine petitions with the SC against the Anti-Terrorism Act. They want the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the implementation of the law pending resolution of questions regarding its constitutionality.

The latest petition was filed on Thursday by several labor groups, which cited the law’s “destructive chilling effect” on workers’ rights to air grievances.

The groups include the Federation of Free Workers, Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, Church Labor Conference, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Uni Global Union-Philippine Liaison Council and the Kilusang Artikulo Trese.

Earlier petitions were filed by the groups of lawyer Howard Calleja, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, law dean Mel Sta. Maria, Makabayan bloc led by Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, and former head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel Rudolph Philip Jurado.

No Guantanamo

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson slammed yesterday the members of US Congress who called for the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Law, saying the US security statutes are “cruel.”

Lacson, principal author of RA 11479, said he was wondering how many among those 50 or so members of the US Congress voted in favor of their Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001.

“Unlike their version, our Republic Act 11479 has no provision for a Guantánamo Bay-like detention facility where indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists, on top of torture and breach of human rights, suicides and suicide attempts have been reported by Amnesty International – all in violation of the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution,” Lacson said in a statement.

Unlike the US terrorism law, RA 11479 does not allow one-party consent in the conduct of electronic or technical surveillance, he said.

He maintained that while the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is replete with safeguards to ensure that human rights of suspected terrorists are protected, “what the US Congress passed as their version of an Anti-Terrorism law is much stronger, even cruel to some extent because their policymakers and citizenry give the highest premium to the security of their country and the protection of US citizens stationed anywhere in the world.”

“That said, these US Congress members should shut up unless they admit to being a bunch of hypocrites,” the senator said.

At least 45 American lawmakers have called on the Philippine government to immediately repeal the controversial law, which critics said has unconstitutional provisions and prone to abuse under the Duterte administration.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the 9th district of Illinois said she and 45 other lawmakers have sent a letter to Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez seeking repeal of the law.

“We stand together in calling for the Philippine government to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that risks further undermining human rights in the Philippines,” she said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

Schakowsky said the law gives the Duterte administration a “new weapon”  to “suppress dissent.” She added the law “will only worsen attacks on ordinary people in the Philippines.” Paolo Romero

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