The Anti-Terror Bill in the Philippines Violates Human Rights and Due Process of Law

The Confederation of Lawyers in Asia and the Pacific  or COLAP, an organization of human rights lawyers and jurists in the region, views with grave concern the proposed Anti-Terror Bill in the Philippines as violative of human rights and the due process of law. The Anti-Terror Bill, known as House Bill 6875 and Senate Bill 1093, was approved by both houses of Congress and submitted to President Duterte to be signed into law.

COLAP underscores that the bill is a bill of attainder that punishes suspected individuals or organizations who are proscribed as terrorists and that the very broad and vague definition of terrorism under the bill poses danger to the basic freedoms of the people.

The suspect’s right to due process of law is virtually denied and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law is virtually negated. The bill, if signed into law, gives the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), composed of presidential cabinet officials and retired generals who serve under the pleasure of the President, inter alia the power to declare and proscribe organizations and parties as terrorists or supporting terrorism without the opportunity to be heard; to authorize police or military to arrest without a warrant; to detain and investigate a suspect without charges for a maximum of 24 days.  Any member or sympathizer of a proscribed organization is punished as a terrorist even if he or she does not actually take arms against the government.

The bill encroaches on one’s privacy as it also allows access to personal and bank information and freezing of the bank accounts and assets of the suspects for six months with extension as well as surveillance, including electronic and cyber means, of mere suspects for three months.

The bill violates the sovereign rights of states and the internationally mandated norm that criminal jurisdiction is confined to the territories of a state because of the provision on extraterritorial jurisdiction.  It applies to any person of whatever nationality or citizenship outside the Philippines who may commit acts constituting terrorism against the Philippine government in any place in the world.  Any person who may fall under the very broad and vague definition as terrorists may be arrested or extradited by the Philippine government.  The assets of these foreigners or Filipino citizens may be frozen and confiscated by the Philippine government.

At a time of grave peril to the people of the Philippines and of the world due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, it is highly objectionable and immoral for the Philippine government to impose this repressive law that terrorizes dissent  and democratic opposition in the country.  As a responsible member of the global community, the Philippine government should focus on ameliorating the financial and economic sufferings of its people and addressing the pandemic crisis instead of muffling their cries and anguish by this proposed draconian law.

COLAP stands in firm solidarity with the Filipino people in the fight for human rights and dignity against repression in whatever form.