On Marcos' birth anniversary, anti-torture advocates ask SC to nullify law 'reminiscent' of dictatorship
A student passes a portion of the Martial Law Memorial Wall at Mehan Garden in Manila on September 20, 2019. Engraved in a series of marble structures are the names of those who suffered and died at the height of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law regime from 1972 to 1986. Several protest activities have been lined up for today’s commemoration of the 47th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
The STAR/Russell Palma, file
On Marcos' birth anniversary, anti-torture advocates ask SC to nullify law 'reminiscent' of dictatorship
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 11, 2020 - 2:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — On the birth anniversary of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., torture survivors and families of involuntary disappearances asked the Supreme Court to nullify the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a law that is “reminiscent” of the "dictatorship of Marcos," they said.

Led by the United Against Torture Coalition-Philippines, the petitioners argued that provisions of Republic Act 11479 or the ATA run contrary against the Constitution and the anti-torture law, “particularly those that value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human person and guarantee full respect for human rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners.”

READ: 'More than money, it is about memory': Fight against dictatorship continues for some Marcos victims

Dr. Benito Molino, a forensic expert and petitioner in the case, stressed: “What makes torture abhorrent is not only what it does to the victims but how the system condones and hide it.”

“The ATA brings back memories of gross human rights violations of the Marcos regime,” he added.

Retired SC Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said that with the anti-terrorism law in our statute books, "it is as if the Philippines is permanently under a situation worse than martial law."

READ: Carpio warns: Situation 'worse than martial law' under anti-terrorism law

The ATA also runs contrary to the Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act of 2012—the law that took decades after the martial law rule and thousands of enforced disappearances to be enacted.

The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) said they recorded nearly 2,000 documented cases of enforced disappearances during the martial law. “Most of the victims are still missing and their families left to heal by themselves from damages and economic displacement,” the statement read.

FIND Secretary General Joey Faustino said: “Torture and enforced disappearance are usually paired by unbridled authority... we need laws like this (RA 10353) to protect our rights, not to stifle them.”

Prolonged detention conducive to torture

The group assailed Section 29 of the law that allows the authorities to detain a suspected terrorist for 14 days before they are required to bring the person to judicial authority. The period of detention is extendible by another ten days.

In a statement, they said that this condition is “conducive to the person detained for being tortured or coerced into involuntary confession, forcibly made to disappear or even summarily executed, which the anti-torture law aims to prevent.”

They also noted that this period is far longer than what the Constitution allows when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. “Warrantless arrests of designated suspects and prolonged pre-trial detention heighten the risk as shown by years of documented cases,” lawyer Cristina Sevilla, counsel of the petitioners, said.

Coupled with the “dismal human rights record” and “misogynistic acts” of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, “the implementation of the ATA will have a chilling effect to every woman, especially the most vulnerable among us such as the prostituted woman who have experienced torture in the hands of authorities,” Jean Enrique of the Coalition Against Trafficking Women-Asia Pacific, and co-petitioner, said.

They also said that the law’s provision on designation of individuals or groups as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council “will only institutionalize the government’s repressive and discriminatory measures.”

Even humanitarian workers and health care workers treating wounded persons who are suspected terrorists may be accused of providing “material support for terrorism,” Edeliza Hernandez of the Medical Action Group said.

This is the 33rd petition challenging the constitutionality of the anti-terrorism law. The case has been set for oral arguments, although date has yet to be determined.

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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