What Makes the Anti-Terrorism Bill So Alarming?
On June 1, President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. The House of Representatives acted swiftly on its passage, approving the measure on its second reading and rejecting all attempts to introduce amendments to the bill.
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Human rights groups and lawyers have denounced the bill, calling it repressive, while others have criticized the government for prioritizing such a measure while the Philippines has yet to contain its COVID-19 epidemic. The following provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act are being flagged by human rights advocates.
1| Suspected 'terrorists' can be arrested without a warrant.
You could get arrested and detained for 14 days if you are suspected of being a terrorist. Your detention can be extended for another 10 days in the name of preserving evidence and preventing terrorist attacks by you.
2| Cabinet officials can order arrests.
An Anti-Terror Council will be formed and will have the power to tag people as terrorists and order arrests. This power is typically reserved for the courts.
3| Government can spy on people.
The government can surveil and wiretap anyone for 60 days, as long as it informs the courts and files charges. People under surveillance will have already been arrested and detained for 14 days if they were tagged as suspected terrorists, but will be further surveilled after their release. As a result, everyone in contact with the suspected person will also have their right to privacy infringed upon.
4| There is a broad definition of 'terror.'
Anyone who provokes or intimidates the government can be tagged as a terrorist. By this definition, anyone who expresses dissent against the government could be labeled as a terrorist. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, terrorism is committed when you engage in certain acts, regardless of the stage of execution, for the purpose of intimidating the whole or a segment of the general public and creating an “atmosphere of fear” to:
- provoke or influence [through] intimidation the government or any of its international organizations;
- seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country;
- create a public emergency; or,
- seriously undermine public safety.