Why the anti-terrorism bill is sanctioned by state terrorism


UP students gather on the steps of UP Diliman Palma Hall for solidarity action during their Black Friday protest. File photo by Menchani Tilendo / Bulatlat)

Who is exempt from being labeled “terrorists? Rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, Church members, peasants, indigenous peoples and workers have been publicly vilified by the state security forces as such.

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MANILA – The Senate adopted on third and final reading Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020. The bill seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, amending provisions believed to strengthen the government’s campaign against terrorism.

The major problem lies in the definition of terrorism.

In a statement, the National Union of People’s Advocates (NUPL) said SB 1083 “criminalizes acts which traditionally have been viewed as legitimate exercises of freedom of expression, freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

Conspiracy to commit terrorism, for example, is punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The threat to commit acts of terrorism could lead to 12 years in prison.

Given the widespread practice of red marking and defamation of political dissidents, anyone could be charged with committing acts of terrorism, plotting to commit terrorist acts, or threatening to commit terrorist acts.

Even journalists from City of Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo City campaigning for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise have been labeled as “Communist-Terrorists”.

The NUPL pointed out that SB 1083 violates the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and association. Even if the speaker or writer is not directly involved in any terrorist act, if his speech is seen as “inciting others to commit terrorism”, he could be charged with the crime.

Mere membership in an organization considered a terrorist group is punishable by 12 years imprisonment and the person who encourages others to join such an organization becomes responsible as a “recruiter” and can be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Who is exempt from being labeled “terrorists? Rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, Church members, peasants, indigenous peoples and workers have been publicly vilified by the state security forces as such.

Opposition members and Church leaders, meanwhile, have been charged with inciting sedition and conspiring to commit sedition. Media groups and human rights lawyers have been named in a fabricated plot to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte. If SB 1083 is adopted, it would be easier to accuse political dissidents of “conspiring to commit terrorism”.

Offering to commit terrorism, planning, training, preparedness, facilitation of the commission of terrorism and providing material support to terrorists are also considered crimes under SB 1083.

In his critique of counterterrorism bills, Rene Estocapio of NUPL-Iloilo argued that the crime of terrorism is based primarily on intent. This, he said, gives inordinate discretion to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges who – at one point or another – would have to assess whether a particular act qualifies as a crime under the draft. anti-terrorism law.

“Due to the seriousness of the offense sanctioned by the proposed law, granting considerable latitude to public officials in determining the qualifying element of intent has serious due process implications,” Estocapio said.

In its position paper, the human rights alliance Karapatan stressed that the anti-terrorism bill will be used against activists and political dissidents, with the aim of dissuading them from advocating for reforms or social changes. .

Karapatan has documented nearly 1,000 activists and political dissidents accused of common crimes, and 604 of them are unjustly imprisoned.

“Instant Terror Tag”

SB 1083 provides for the immediate declaration of any group as a “terrorist organization” under what is known as the preliminary prohibition order.

Under the bill, the Department of Justice (DOJ), with the authority of the Counter-Terrorism Council and on the recommendation of the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA), can file a request to designate any group as terrorist. The Court of Appeal need only establish probable cause before issuing a preliminary restraining order within 72 hours of filing the application.

Estocapio said the probable cause standard is a relatively low standard of proof given the serious implications of such a court order.

The summary hearing granted to the respondent group can take place up to six months later.

Arrests without warrant, invasion of privacy

Anyone suspected of the crime can be detained without a judicial arrest warrant for 14 days. Detention could be extended up to ten days.

Even during the preliminary determination of probable cause, the suspects’ right to travel may be restricted. If the evidence is not strong, those suspected of terrorism may be placed under house arrest and may not use cell phones, telephones or other means of communication with people outside the residence. If the evidence is strong, the Foreign Ministry will cancel his passport.

The bill also empowers the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate, investigate, examine the bank deposits of any group / person without a court order if there is probable reason to believe that he / she is committing, is attempting to commit , or conspires to commit acts of terrorism or facilitate the financing of acts of terrorism.

The power to freeze assets will last for up to 20 days, but can be extended for up to six months.

This was done with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a religious NGO dedicated to serving the rural poor. RMP found its 19 bank accounts frozen for 20 days, and the order could be extended for up to 60 days. The vague reasoning provided by AMLC is that there is “a probable cause that RMP’s BPI accounts are linked to terrorist financing.”

The bill also gives the green light to law enforcement officers or military personnel to subject suspicious persons / groups to intense surveillance. State agents may covertly wiretap, hear and listen, intercept, filter, read or collect, using any mode, form or type of electronic, mechanical and other equipment or device or technology, any communication, discussion, conversation, data or messages in any form, nature or nature, speech or writing between designated terrorists or any person accused or suspected of having committed acts of terrorism.

Authorized surveillance can last up to 60 days and can be extended up to an additional 30 days. State officials need only deposit ex part request (meaning that the suspect will not be informed or heard) from the Court of Appeal for the issuance of an order requiring telecommunications service providers and Internet service providers to produce all information and records on clients, including call and SMS recordings, as well as cell phone and Internet metadata. As soon as the order is issued, the National Telecommunications Commission is then responsible for ensuring immediate compliance.

The NUPL summed it up well by saying, “If enacted, the new anti-terrorism bill will become the most powerful weapon the government can use to quell dissent.

“The proposed measure will only serve as a legal framework for a crackdown on progressive organizations, civil society groups, activists, members of the media and individuals labeled as dissidents or” enemies of the state “,” the group said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)


Thelma J. Longworth

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