June 24, 2018
BANGKOK, Thailand – The proposed amendments to the Philippines’ Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) would, if adopted, give government authorities a license to commit human rights violations, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in its submission today to the House of Representatives. The ICJ strongly urged the House of Representatives to reconsider these proposed amendments and in the interim to allow more time for full consultation and debate on revisions of the law.
In its submission to the House of Representatives’ joint Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Committees of Public Order and Safety and National Defense and Security, the ICJ stressed that certain proposed amendments to the HSA are clearly incompatible with international human rights laws and standards that prohibit unfettered surveillance power and arbitrary deprivation of the right to liberty and protect the rights to privacy, information, redress, and freedom of opinion and expression. The ICJ also expressed deep concern that the law also gives military personnel responsibility in countering terrorism, specifically to conduct surveillance on, arrest, and detain persons who are suspected of acts of terrorism.
“The proposed amendments do not address the existing flaws of the HSA. For instance, the definition of acts of terrorism under the HSA is vague and ambiguous and the proposed changes do not in any way remedy that,” said Emerlynne Gil, a Senior International Legal Adviser of the ICJ.
The ICJ also pointed out that the proposed amendments are likely to lead to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The proposed amendments would also impermissibly lengthen to thirty (30) days the period within which an individual may be detained without judicial warrant. “This is clearly incompatible with the Philippines international legal obligations and constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” said Gil.
The ICJ proposes to reduce the detention period to forty-eight (48) hours or less, in compliance with international human rights laws and standards.
“The Philippine government has the undeniable duty to protect people from acts of terrorism committed by non-State actors, but it cannot use as a pretext the serious nature of terrorist acts to avoid its obligations under international human rights law,” said Gil.