Proposed anti-terror law puts rights on the line
Graphic: CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon
The CHR has expressed concern about the potential of provisions in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act to undermine fundamental human rights.
While recognising the dangers of terrorism, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed concern about the potential of provisions included in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act to undermine fundamental human rights.
The CHR said in a statement that the "vague and overbroad definition of 'terrorism' makes it difficult to distinguish an act of terrorism to that of an ordinary crime which are already penalized by the Revised Penal Code and other pertinent laws".
"This opens the doors for prosecution under the proposed legislation which should only fall within the crimes punishable by the Revised Penal Code or other special laws for ordinary crimes," the CHR said.
Not only does this create a 'chilling effect', the CHR said that such an overly broad definition could be misused to target dissenting voices, government critics, civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, minority groups, labour activists, indigenous peoples and others.
"This may result to an unwarranted limitation and suppression on the right to organization, free speech, and right to privacy among others," the CHR added.
CHR recognises the dangers of terrorism. We should condemn its perpetrators and its effects on our lives. However, in the pursuit of preventing its threats, we cannot put our rights on the line.
The CHR also voiced concern about the provision in the Bill to allow law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance on 'suspected' terrorists by intercepting and recording their private communications.
"The unscrupulous access to a persons' confidential information circumvents the right against self-incrimination and may pave the way for 'fishing expeditions' by government authorities and evade the right against unreasonable searches and seizures," the CHR said.
In addition, the CHR said the prolonged detention of an individual for a period of 14 days – with the potential to extend for another 10 days – without judicial warrant and the denial of the right to post bail was a breach of international standards.
"It is more concerning that, given the proposed extended period of detention, the said Act further absolves authorities from any 'criminal liability for the delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities' despite the Constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and due process," the CHR added.
Date: 5 June 2020
Source: Commission on Human Rights
- CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines