Philippine anti-terrorism law

29th anti-terror law petition: Detainees not personally checked by a judge

Lian Buan

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29th anti-terror law petition: Detainees not personally checked by a judge

Representatives of the Sangguniang Kabataan from different regions in the country file a petition before the Supreme Court on April 19, 2020, asking the high court to release a temporary restraining order and a Preliminary injunction against the Anti-Terror Law.

Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Petitioners worry that law enforcers would take their time with a detained suspect. 'There can be torture,' says a human rights commissioner.

The 29th petition against the anti-terror law pointed out another significant difference between the old Human Security Act and the new anti-terror law: judges are no longer required to personally check the arrested suspect.

This deprives the suspect of another layer of an independent check into his safety and well-being.

Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials and other civic leaders filed this petition on Wednesday, August 19, before the Supreme Court. They are represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers National Capital Region or NUPL-NCR.

Under Section 18 of the old Human Security Act, immediately upon arrest of a suspect and before detention, law enforcers should “present him or her before any judge.”

The judge can “determine by questioning and personal observation whether or not the suspect has been subjected to any physical, moral or psychological torture by whom and why.”

That was removed in the new anti-terror law. (READ: EXPLAINER: Comparing dangers in old law and anti-terror bill)

‘There can be torture’

Under Section 29 of the new law, law enforcement is only required to “notify in writing the judge of the court nearest the place of apprehension.” The law does say visitors and physicians of choice may visit the detainee.

But petitioners worried “the law enforcer could, in a manner of speaking, take his time with his or her prisoner.”

In an earlier interview, human rights commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento worried “there can be torture.”

In the new law, law enforcers can detain a suspect for up to 24 days before charging him or her in court.

“A lot can happen in 24 days, there can be torture here,” said Armamento.

“The person, the police authority detaining that person is the only one who will appear before the court telling them this is what happened, the person we’re detaining is in good condition. How will we know? We are relying on the goodness of these people,” Armamento added.

The petition said “Section 29 is obviously intended to allow the police and military personnel to detain a person for a prolonged period of time without having to show cause.

This, the petitioners said, violates a detainee’s right to due process.

“The participation of the judge in this process is, in itself, essential to protect the constitutional rights of the person who has been arrested without warrant,” the petition said.

The Supreme Court has set the petitions for oral arguments by the end of September “at the earliest.”

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.