#HumanRights #ScrapTerrorLaw Laban ng Masa Says Implementing Rules and Regulations Make Anti-Terrorism Law Harsher
The recently released Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) do nothing to assuage the fear of Filipinos that the law poses a grave threat to their fundamental rights.
Laban ng Masa has come to this conclusion guided by detailed analysis of the IRR by Professor Antonio Laviňa, former Dean of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, and his colleague Joy Reyes.
Warrantless Arrest: No Improvement
For many, the most objectionable feature of the ATL is its provision on warrantless arrest. This is not remedied by the IRR. Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code provides that a person detained shall be delivered to the proper judicial authorities within 12 hours for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties, 18 hours for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties, and 36 hours for crimes or offenses punishable by afflictive or capital penalties. However, the IRR of ATL states that the law enforcement agent or military personnel shall not necessarily deliver but simply notify in writing the judge of the trial court nearest to the place of apprehension or arrest, within 48 hours.
Moreover, as in the ATL, the IRR provides that delivery of the suspected person to the proper judicial authority shall take place within 14 days, extendible by 10 more days if it is established that (a) further detention of the person/s is necessary to preserve the evidence related to “terrorism” or complete the investigation, (b) further detention of the person is necessary to prevent the commission of another act of “terrorism”, and (c) the investigation is being conducted “properly and without delay.” This detention that can last for up to 24 days, therefore, means that the IRR provision on warrantless arrest is grossly inconsistent with and is an unwarranted departure from that of the Revised Penal Code.
Designation, Listing, and Delisting: Worse
“Probable cause” is the standard by which the ATL can designate terrorists, and it is defined under the IRR as “a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances warranting a cautious person to believe that the proposed designee meets the requirements of designation.” The IRR simply repeats the overly broad definition of probable cause of the ATL and carries with it the same great potential for abuse.
The IRR, indeed, heighten the repressive potential of the ATL for according to Rule 6.5, a list of persons or entities designated as “terrorists,” will be published in or posted on the online official gazette and the official website of the ATL. This will include the name of the designated person or entity or other identifier information, a brief description of the case for designation, and the date of designation or date of last review of designation. This rule is not present in the ATL. Publicizing the names of individuals or groups arbitrarily designated as “terrorist” amplifies the fears that were first expressed by citizens’ groups during the passage of the ATL. It will bring harm to the reputations of the designated individuals and groups, carry negative political and economic consequences for them, and expose them to physical harm.
Moreover, when it comes to delisting, the concern articulated by civil society during the passage of the law remains the same: the burden of proof is placed on the suspect, and not on the prosecution, which should be the case when it comes to criminal cases.
Freezing of Assets and Travel Restrictions: No Mitigation
The IRR does nothing to mitigate the harshness of the process of freezing assets of suspected “terrorists” in the ATL. According to Rule 8.3, a preventive freeze order may be issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) upon persons or entities on whom a preliminary order of proscription is issued or among those who are designated, and shall take effect immediately and shall remain in effect for a period of up to twenty days. This period, moreover, may be extended for a total of six months. This poses the threat of prolonged disruption or dislocation of the livelihoods and businesses of those accused.
Cancellation of the hold departure order or termination of other unreasonable and onerous restrictions on the rights to travel and freely communicate of the accused will take place only upon his or her acquittal or dismissal of the case. Given the fact that the government has great leeway in determining when and how long to prosecute a case, this provision allows for an open-ended restriction—and violation—of the individual’s freedom of movement and right to communicate with society.
Repeal of ATL is the only Solution
In sum, the IRR do nothing to safeguard the rights of citizens from being eroded by the Anti-Terrorism Law. In some respects, they make these rights more vulnerable to abuse:
- The IRR retains the ATL’s objectionable provisions on the warrantless arrest.
- They add a public designation process that threatens reputational harm, carries negative political and economic consequences, exposes the accused to physical harm, and puts the burden of proof for delisting on the accused instead of the state.
- They maintain the harsh provisions on freezing assets and the onerous, unjustified restrictions on the individual’s freedom to travel and freely communicate with loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
Even without recourse to the Anti-Terrorism Law, dangerous people like Gen. Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command chief, have already arbitrarily and indiscriminately tagged individuals and organizations such as actresses Liza Soberano and Angel Locsin as “terrorists,” while admitting their lack of evidence in doing so. Armed with the Anti-Terrorism Law, fascist-minded officials like Parlade, we can be sure, will be able to move from threat to actual repression based on the flimsiest or fabricated evidence, with few or no legal barriers to contain them.
The IRR-fortified Anti-Terrorism Law is another perilous step in the weaponization of the law under the Duterte administration.
But more than this, it puts in jeopardy and tramples the democratic rights won over centuries of struggle of Filipino working-class people. While we understand that democratic rights won through decades of struggle by working people can never be guaranteed and are always conditional under elite rule, and that there has been an ongoing erosion of these rights under previous regimes, this is a significant escalation of these attacks on our hard-won rights, presenting an alarming and dangerous situation for democratic forces. It also highlights the enormous coercive power of the capitalist state, and the unwavering resolve of the ruling class to use state violence to protect its interests and stop the inexorable forward movement of our people towards a society of equality and justice.
We in Laban ng Masa affirm that the only way to protect citizens from the dangerous threat posed by the Anti-Terrorism Law is not through Implementing Rules and Regulations that “soften” them but through repeal of the law itself.
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