“The legislation can be used to violate people rights in the same way the Bayanihan Act was used for mass arrests of ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] violators. Only the anti-terror law is 100x worse.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive organizations slammed the hasty approval of Anti-Terrorism Bill amid the pandemic, saying it will “make the country a police state, where protests and dissent are now equated with terrorism.”
On Friday, May 29, the majority of the members of the House Committees on Public Order and Safety and on National Defense and Security voted in favor of the adopted Senate version of the bill which seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007. Only representatives of the Makabayan bloc and Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte voted against it.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) warned that the legislation “can be used to violate people rights in the same way the Bayanihan Act was used for mass arrests of ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] violators.”
“Only the anti-terror law is 100x worse,” Reyes said on Twitter.
Using Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as justification, the Philippine National Police arrested over 41,000 alleged violators of enhanced community quarantine as of May 2.
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and transitional president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said that if passed, the law “will be the manual for an omnipotent Big Brother in a police State. “
“It will terrorize targeted critics, dissenters and social advocates more than the real terrorists with unbridled State power and prejudice through subjective definitions, arbitrary arrests, and extended detentions,” Olalia said in a statement.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate criticized the security sector for “pushing for these draconian measures while the country is battling the coronavirus disease.
Zarate added that the bill can be easily weaponized and used against critics and members of the opposition due to the vagueness and broadness of the definition of terrorism which is further exacerbated by the associated broad powers that the Anti-Terrorism Council.
Under Section 4 of the Senate approved bill, terrorism is committed by any person within or outside the country regardless of the stage of execution the following:
– Engaging in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangering a person’s life
– Engaging in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property
– Engaging in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure
– Developing, manufacturing, possessing, acquiring, transporting, supplying or using weapons, explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons
– Releasing of dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods or explosions
If found guilty in any of these acts, the penalty is life imprisonment without the benefit of parole and no bail.
The following acts will also be punished with life imprisonment, no parole and bail:
– Planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism
-Conspiracy to commit terrorism
-Recruitment to and membership in a “terrorist” organization
-Providing material support to terrorist
-Possessing objects connected in the commission of terrorism
-Collecting or making documents connected with the preparation of the commission of terrorism
– Foreign terrorist
Anyone who will also be found guilty to commit the following will also be imprisoned of 12 years:
– Threat to commit terrorism
-Proposal to commit terrorism
– Inciting to commit terrorism
-Voluntarily and knowingly join any “terrorist” organization
– Being an accessory to commission of terrorism
The Senate bill also allows to secretly wiretap, record private conversation, collect data and the likes of a person or organization declared as terrorist. It also allows warrantless arrest and detention of a mere suspected terrorist up to 24 days.
‘Recipe for impunity’
Meanwhile, penalties for law enforcers who commit violations of this proposed law have been reduced. A law enforcer who will be guilty of violating the rights of suspected/detained terrorist is reduced to 10 years from 10-12 years of imprisonment (under the HSA 2007).
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago underscored that the bill would further embolden state security forces to violate human rights. She said that under the new Anti-Terror Bill, penalties for law enforcers for the following acts were removed:
– Failure to deliver suspect to the proper judicial authority within three days
– False or untruthful statements or misinterpretation of material fact in joint affidavits
– Unjustified refusal to restore or delay in restoring seized, sequestered and frozen bank deposits, accounts, assets and records
– Loss, misuse, diversion or dissipation of seized, sequestered and frozen bank deposits, placements, trust accounts, assets and records
– Payment of P500,000 for unproven charge of terrorism.
The Senate bill also removes the provision on the Committee for the Redress of Grievances which originally was stated in the HSA 2007.
Human rights group Karapatan said that by passing proposed bill, the House joint committees just basically “threw out all the position and recommendations of human rights organizations and international experts in the name of fast-tracking President Duterte regime’s desperate bid to crush dissent, civil liberties, and people’s rights.”
In a separate statement, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines also condemned the passage of the bill at the committee level. “In this classic example of railroading, the House discards a legislative process that allows potential flaws in proposed laws, particularly those that could adversely affect basic rights and freedoms, to be corrected,” the group said.
The NUJP said the bill would negate so many rights, including freedom of the press and expression.
“As it is, this anti-terror bill is patently anti-people and unconstitutional. It will also further worsen the sorry state of human rights in the country as well as heighten the state of impunity of the state security forces,” Zarate said.