DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Human Rights group Karapatan urges the Department of Justice (DOJ) to recommend the veto of the Anti-Terrorism Bill which it is set to review before the president decides on the bill.
The justice department was tasked to review the bill, which amends the Human Security Act with questionable provisions infringing on Constitutional-guaranteed rights and functions, and is set to submit its comments to President Rodrigo Duterte on June 17, Wednesday.
The said bill, feared by various sectors who have released their statement that this could be weaponized against dissent, only awaits the president’s signature.
In a letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, stated that the ATB “will inevitably and ultimately infringe on the people’s exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Palabay said: “The DOJ cannot ignore the loud and justified public clamor against the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It is more than glaring that the measure is severely unconstitutional and inconsistent with international human rights standards.
Local and international lawyers’ groups and law colleges have also raised the same concerns on the ATB, citing the overbroad definition of “terrorism”, as well as other contentious provisions, including the warrantless arrests and longer period of detention of suspected persons.
Various sectors also point out how the bill will affect their advocacies because of the sweeping terms against advocacies, including peace advocates especially in Mindanao, environment groups, Bangsamoro institutions, and Lumad advocates.
“We fear that it will enable the wholesale disregard of human and people’s rights and that it can potentially further constrict the already narrowing democratic and civic spaces in the country, especially under the Duterte administration,” Palabay added.
Congress was slammed by critics for “railroading” the anti-terror bill during their session in the first week of June while the country is still facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the DOJ recommends the vetoing of the ATB, Palabay said, it will be a “strong pushback” against the efforts to “railroad” the bill’s passage.
“We ultimately believe terrorism can be addressed, not through a defective militarist approach that our State forces employ, but through the pursuit of a just and lasting peace, through tackling the roots of the problems of social injustice and inequality, and through genuine respect for people’s rights,” Palabay said. (davaotoday.com)