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Enactment of amendments to anti-terror law, a steep descent to martial rule in PH - Karapatan

Press Release
February 11, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Human rights group Karapatan today submitted its position paper to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Order and Safety regarding the six House bills which seek to amend the Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, during the committee’s hearing on the proposed measures.

“If enacted in Congress, the said amendments will pave the way for the steep and mad descent towards martial law in the Philippines. The proposed draconian measures will ensure the throwback to the Marcosian era, enabling the wholesale disregard of human and people’s rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. These proposals are severely inconsistent with international human rights standards including the right to due process, against unlimited detention of suspects, rights to free speech and expression, right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, right to freedom of association, the right of human rights defenders to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, right to mobility and against unjust and cruel punishment,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

According to Karapatan, House Bill Nos. 551, 2082, 2847, 3103, 3413, and 5710, authored by Reps. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Jericho Jonas Nograles, Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Michael Romero, Jocelyn Tulfo, Eric Yap, Rowena Nina Taduran, and Lianda Bolilia, will “worsen the provisions of this already monstrous piece of legislation in furtherance of legal repressive measures that are in sync with the brand of state repression that the current administration employs.”

In their position paper, Karapatan noted the questionable provisions in the said bills, which includes among others:

a. The removal of all provisions and language on the duty and obligations of the State under international law to protect people from terrorist acts in a manner that is consistent to and that respects and promotes human rights;

b. The iteration and expansion of the already vague and overly broad definitions of terrorism and acts of terrorism that threaten the rights of individuals and the exercise of the rights of human rights defenders and the people’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, to seek redress of grievances and to be involved or to take part in public affairs;

c. The reinstatement of the death penalty, in direct violation of the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and institutionalization of disproportionate, cruel and unjust punishment of life imprisonment and prison terms;

d. Gross implications on the right to due process and the right to privacy on provisions regarding surveillance of suspected terrorists including those that imply that even upon mere suspicion, any individual may be subject to electronic or physical surveillance and to scrutiny of personal communications by law enforcement and worse, military personnel who have time and again conducted surveillance activities against activists that resulted to extrajudicial killings, torture and other rights violations;

e. Gross violations on the right against illegal and arbitrary detention, torture and to cruel and degrading treatment in proposed provisions, and the removal of provisions in pertaining to rights of detained persons and against torture;

f. Removal of provisions providing penalties and/or lowering of penalties for State authorities who violate basic civil and political rights of persons, including those that pertain to the failure of police or law enforcement official to notify the person subject of surveillance, monitoring, interception and recording; failure to notify in writing the persons subject of the surveillance; violations on the rights of detained persons and against torture; and damages for unproven charge of terrorism is proposed to be repealed; and

g. Violations of international instruments pertaining to protection of sources and whistleblowers in provisions pertaining to unauthorized revelation of classified materials and arrest of unwilling material witness.

Karapatan also noted that enactment of the said proposals is meant “to institutionalize not only the notorious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) transformed into the Anti-Terrorism Council, but also its “whole of nation approach,” a paradigm and approach that has been criticized as militarist and corrupt.”

The human rights group, meanwhile expressed full support for House Bill No. 0482, repealing RA 9372, filed by the Makabayan Bloc led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Read: Position Paper on the Proposed Amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007

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