The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday, June 2, raised several concerns over the proposed anti-terror bill that critics fear is being railroaded into law.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia warned against the "broad definition" of what constitutes as terrorism, fearing this could lead to state abuse.
"Such overreach may be seen as disproportionate and highly intrusive as it allows for room for discretion which could be possibly used to limit substantial freedoms, including expression of dissent and critical perspectives most especially by civil society and human rights groups, under a democracy," she said in a statement.
De Guia said that "authorities could wantonly tag exercise of rights as terrorist expressions under this Act."
The proposed bill is expected to come into fruition soon after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it urgent on Monday, June 1.
The Senate passed its version last February 26 while the House of Representatives is expected finish its deliberations soon.
CHR also raised concern over provisions of the bill, including the prolonged detention without judicial warrant and the lack of accountability for authorities in the event of "delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities."
While ending terrorism is an important, CHR reminds the government that laws and policies should not lead to the stiffling of rights and freedoms of citizens.
"We must then continue to be vigilant that it is terroristic acts that this bill is seeking to curb, not the legitimate exercise of rights and freedoms," De Guia said. "And for instances of abuse, those who have used their position and power in excess must also be held to account."
Human rights and law groups earlier asked Congress to reject the proposed bill, saying that it will be used to weaponize the law against critics of the government.
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.