Amending anti-terror law to worsen HRVs, groups warn

Feb. 11, 2019

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay (Photo by Pinoy Weekly)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Human rights advocates are wary of a countrywide martial law if the military’s proposed amendments to the anti-terror law will be legislated.

In a statement on Friday, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay warned that amending Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 “will enable the wholesale violation of people’s civil liberties and political rights.”

The proposed amendments are being tackled now at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Karapatan also reacted to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement admitting that amendments to the anti-terrorism law “would no longer necessitate the proclamation of martial law and suspension of habeas corpus.”

Lorenzana said that he could immediately recommend the lifting of martial law in Mindanao if Congress will enact the proposed revisions.

The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs endorsed its committee report on the revised HSA to the Senate plenary on Wednesday. The House version of the measure is being discussed in the technical working group of the joint committee on public safety and committee on national defense

Under the proposed Senate Bill No. 2204, law enforcement and military personnel can detain an individual suspected of or in a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, or any member of an organization/association or group of persons prescribed even without judicial warrant of arrest to fourteen days from the present three days.

It also permits the Anti-Terrorism Council to file an ex-parte application before the Court of Appeals or Regional Trial Court for the issuance of an order to ‘compel’ telecommunications service providers and internet service providers to produce all customer information and identification records, as well as call and text data records and other cellular or internet metadata of any person suspected of an actual or imminent terrorist attack.

Payment of damages of authorities in the amount of P500,000 to the person later acquitted of terrorism charges was also removed in the proposed measure.

Under the amended HSA, Palabay said individuals will become “vulnerable to all forms of rights violations.”

“Mere suspicion against persons and communities, even without an iota of evidence, can be used as a basis by hyper-paranoid state forces. These proposed measures will give full military powers to the most notorious human rights violators such as the police, military, and intelligence agents,” Palabay said.

Numerous rights abuse

Rights group Barug Katungod Mindanao also noted of the steep rise of rights abuses “instigated” by martial law not yet even halfway through the first quarter of 2019.

Ryan Amper, the groups’ spokesperson cited the arrest of Lumad and peasant leaders Datu Jomorito Goaynon and Ireneo Udarbe.

“Their abduction was the military’s retaliation for Goaynon and Udarbe’s relentless and conscientious work in monitoring and filing of cases versus military abuses in Northern Mindanao,” Amper said.

The group also mentioned the continued vilification against churches of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), particularly in the city of Pagadian, Oroquieta, and Ozamiz in the northern part of Mindanao.

Several vandal markings are seen on walls of church premises and along highways in these places, tagging church workers, people’s organizations, and even government agency as sympathizers of New People’s Army (NPA).

Peasant leader Sergio Atay in Western Mindanao was also killed. He was reported last seen being held by the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) checkpoint in Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte. Body marks in the body of Atay would indicate he was tortured before the killing. Barug Katungod said Atay was receiving threats, and surveillance allegedly coming from the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) before the incident happened.

Meanwhile, the group expressed alarm over the aerial strikes in Lumad communities in Caraga region due to military operations and the killing of two Manobo farmers in the area tagged by the military as NPA fighters.

Amper noted that the common denominator on the increasing killings of Lumad, Moro, and peasants is the “categorization of political dissenters as ‘terrorists.’”


Barug Katungod deemed the proposed enhancement of the HSA, if passed, to “lead to the further incarceration of members of cause-oriented groups, human rights workers, and ordinary civilians on the basis of mere suspicion as terrorists.”

Meanwhile, Palabay said: “The HSA has given State forces the license to kill, to arbitrarily detain persons on spurious and unsubstantiated charges, to vilify and make individuals and groups vulnerable to gross human rights violations. The proposed amendments will definitely expand these military powers and will bring the country back to open martial rule. With the Duterte regime’s propensity for all-out abuses and impunity, the amended anti-terror law will further justify the unabated trampling of our civil and political rights.”

Both groups are calling on all peace advocates to oppose the HSA and its proposed amendments that would enable the Duterte government to place the whole country in a martial rule. (

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