“Removing or lowering these penalties gives State authorities a free pass, if not outright approval and endorsement, for violations on human rights and civil liberties…”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – While the Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terror Bill professes to “uphold the basic rights and fundamental liberties of the people as enshrined in the Constitution,” whatever safeguards stated in the draconian Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 have been removed.
The most glaring deletion in SB 1083, which was passed by the Senate last week, is Section 50 of the HSA. The provision which states, “A person acquitted of charges of terrorism is entitled to damages in the amount of P500,000 for every day of detention without a warrant. The amount of damages shall be automatically charged against the appropriations of the police agency or the Anti Terrorism Council that brought or sanctioned the filing of the charges against the accused,” has been removed in its entirety.
Human rights lawyer Rene Estocapio, in his critique of the anti-terror bills, maintains there is no basis for the removal of Section 50 of the HSA.
“The provision is more than reasonable considering that: (a) it may serve as a deterrent against the hasty and baseless exercise of powers by the law-enforcer, and (b) the award of damages is warranted in cases involving violations of fundamental rights,” Estocapio of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said.
The case of Aeta peasant Edgar Candule is illustrative. Candule was arrested by elements of the Philippine National Police without a warrant on March 21, 2008 in Botolan, Zambales. He was charged with terrorism under Section 3 of the Human Security Act based on allegations of his possession of a firearm and subversive documents and that with these he was “engaged in sowing and creating a contention of widespread fear and peace among the populace.”
On October 20, 2010, Zambales Regional Trial Court Branch 69 dismissed the charges against Candule. His lawyers from the NUPL filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals with regard to compensation, arguing that Candule deserves a monetary compensation of at least P470 million.
Under the Duterte administration, Lumad leader Jomorito Goaynon and peasant organizer Ireneo Udarbe were arrested on January 28, 2019 in Talakag, Bukidnon. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosive, violation of the election gun ban, rebellion, and violations of the HSA. The charges were dismissed in August of the same year. Goaynon, however, remains in detention for fabricated charges of kidnapping, robbery and arson.
The anti-terror bill also allows police, law-enforcement and military personnel duly-authorized by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to carry out warrantless arrests for a period of 14 days without incurring liability under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. In addition, the allowable period of detention has been extended to 14 working days.
Moreover, the provision in the HSA requiring law enforcement personnel to present the person arrested to a judge is removed. The bill merely requires written notification to the judge of the court nearest the place of arrest.
Estocapio pointed out that the bill does not require the notice to indicate the legal basis for the arrest and detention.
Estocapio also mentioned that the provision in HSA providing a penalty of imprisonment for a period of 12 years and 1 day to 20 years for a person who uses threat, intimidation, or coercion, or inflicts physical pain or torment, or mental, moral, or psychological pressure on a suspect, has been removed in its entirety.
In its position paper, human rights alliance Karapatan said, “Removing or lowering these penalties gives State authorities a free pass, if not outright approval and endorsement, for violations on human rights and civil liberties…”