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Lawmakers, groups urge Supreme Court to cure ‘repressive’ anti-terror law
Opposition lawmakers say no amount of assurances will ensure the law will not be abused as the measure itself is 'abusive and derogatory of human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms'

PRONE TO ABUSE. Protesters from different groups stage a protest march against the new Anti-Terror Law at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, QC on July 4, 2020. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers and an influential business group added their dissenting voices to the Anti-Terror law that President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Friday, July 3, and called on the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional its “repressive” provisions as the law could be prone to abuse and human rights violations. 

Detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima said on Sunday, July 5, that “Republic Act No. 11479, in the hands of Mr Duterte, is just another weapon for his lawfare against lawful dissent, political rivals, and the rest of our countrymen demanding accountability for his misgovernance, injustices and treason,” De Lima said in a statement. 

Citing instances where laws have been used to bully critics, journalist, and activists who speak out against the administration’s policies, De Lima said Duterte officials have established a “pattern of systematic destruction of our democracy and human rights.”  

Ang isang batas na nagbibigay sa rehimen na ito ng karagdagang kapangyarihang manmanan, bawian ng ari-arian, at ipakulong ng walang warrant ang mga kalaban ni Duterte sa pulitika at ang mga taong nagsasalita ng katotohanan ay hindi isang batas na dapat manaig sa isang demokrasya na tulad ng sa atin,” De Lima said. 

(A law that gives this regime additional power to control, deprive liberty, and arrest without a warrant political opponents and those speaking the truth is not a law that should prosper in a democracy like ours.)

“The real terrorists are anti-democracy and anti-human rights at heart.  And so the hand that signed this law…. With legal challenges expected to reach it, I call on our Supreme Court to protect our democracy and invalidate this legal abomination before Mr Duterte, and other tyrants that might follow him, inflict further oppression and repression upon our people,” she added.  

The Anti-Terror Law gives government more powers to act against persons or groups falling under what critics say is a dangerous and vague definition of terrorism.  

(READ: Lawyers, civic leaders file 1st petition vs anti-terror law)

Duterte signed the law amid widespread opposition and despite Malacañang’s legal minds pointing out “strong cautionary comments” from within the Cabinet over certain provisions of the law.  

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) likewise implored lawmakers and officials to address dangerous provisions of the law to ensure Filipinos’ rights were protected as it crafted implementing rules for the measure. 

“We aired our concerns but the President has spoken. We fervently hope that the implementing rules and regulations will address the concerns of our people on their constitutionally-protected rights,” MAP President Francis Lim said in a statement. 

(READ: ‘The demise of democracy’: Filipinos denounce signing of anti-terror law)

‘Trust us’ 

An advocacy of retired generals and security officials who form a significant group in Duterte’s Cabinet, the anti-terror law hurdled Congress after Duterte certified the bill as urgent. 

In a statement issued on Sunday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the public to “give the law a chance”.

Lorenzana said the measure was “much-needed” to give law enforcement agencies the“necessary power to contain and eradicate terrorists who don’t play by any rules and who hide behind our laws to pursue their evil deeds.” 

He asserted the Department of Defense will implement the law in line with its “intent and spirit” and ensured the public the measure will not be abused.  

“We appeal to the public to give this law a chance and not to be swayed by misinformation and disinformation. We urge everyone to read and understand the law,” he said. 

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said the army was likewise “elated” Duterte enacted the law. 

“We now have a powerful statute that provides law enforcement agencies the wherewithal to protect and defend our people,” he said. 

No assurances

But like De Lima, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman warned that despite promises made by law enforcement agencies that it would not be abused, “no amount of assurance” would ensure this as “the law itself is abusive and derogatory of human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.”

“It is incumbent upon the Supreme Court to use the scalpel of judicial review to excise the numerous oppressive and unconstitutional provisions of the new law in its adjudication of relevant petitions,” he said. – Sofia Tomacruz/