Philippine anti-terrorism law

Some lawmakers caution against broadened terrorism definition

Ryan Macasero

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Some lawmakers caution against broadened terrorism definition

LOWER HOUSE. The House of Representatives opens its second regular session on Monday morning, July 24, 2023.

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Following the designation of Arnolfo Teves Jr. as a terrorist, some lawmakers raise concern over using the anti-terrorism law to bypass the court system

MANILA, Philippines – Some lawmakers cautioned against expanding terrorism’s definition after Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. was designated a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).

The progressive Makabayan bloc condemned the “dangerous trend” of using the anti-terror law as an alternative way to solve crimes.

“The Makabayan bloc strongly condemns the dangerous trend of using the anti-terrorism law to apprehend individuals suspected of committing crimes, as recently suggested in the case of the killing of Gov. Degamo. While we recognize the importance of ensuring justice for victims, it is imperative that we do so within the bounds of due process and respect for human rights,” the bloc said in a press statement.

Makabayan says the ATC Resolution No. 43, naming Teves and 12 others terrorists, “reveals the incompetence of government bodies in apprehending their suspects and highlights the tendency to use the anti-terrorism law as a crutch.”

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“The Marcos Jr. administration already possesses sufficient laws and powers to go after and apprehend Rep. Arnie Teves or any individual responsible for the heinous crime,” Makabayan said in its statement.

“The invocation of the anti-terror law in this context not only attempts to justify its existence but also fails to address the underlying issues surrounding the effective investigation and apprehension of suspects,” it added.

Teves is the first elected official named a terrorist by the ATC.

The suspended Negros Oriental lawmaker, facing multiple murder complaints, has also been tagged as the mastermind of the Pamplona massacre, where nine others were killed with then-governor Roel Degamo.

The ATC’s resolution recognized those involved in the assassination of Degamo as being part of a terrorist organization, referring to it as the “Teves Terrorist Group.”

Meanwhile, Senator Chiz Escudero did not protest the resolution tagging Teves as a terrorist, but warned that expanding the definition of terrorism could lead to a weaponization of the controversial law.

“[T]his declaration by the anti-terrorism council is significant. For the first time, they have expanded the definition. They broadened the definition of a terrorist group, which, in our ordinary thinking, includes groups like BIFF, Maute, Jemaah Islamiyah, and ISIS,” Escudero said in Filipino.

He also pointed out that any local politician could be named a terrorist following the ATC resolution.

“This group they named is local, in other words, is the ATC heading towards a direction where anyone with PAGs (Private Armed Group) can be declared a terrorist organization? And if so, will this be added to the cases involving the eleven individuals in their declaration?” he added.

The veteran politician added that this resolution could set a precedent. “Can the terrorist tag be applied to PAGs (private armed groups)?” he asked.

Activists had previously raised concern over the ATC’s discretion to expand terrorism’s interpretation, the opaque process in designating someone a terrorist, and a lack of due process, leaving critics of the government vulnerable to abuse of the law.

Degamo’s widow and Pamplona town Mayor Janice previously said, however, that she believed the designation of Teves as a terrorist, was appropriate because of the organized and systematic nature of the killings in Negros Oriental constitute terrorism.

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“But perhaps those people who criticize the use of the law have not been victimized by these groups themselves. They (the Teveses) are organized. They grab land that does not belong to them. Even local reporters are afraid to report on them. If that’s not terrorism, then what is it?” Degamo said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

On Wednesday, August 2, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said they already moved to freeze the assets of Teves, his brother Pryde Henry, and the 11 others who were designated terrorists.

The designation would also compel countries where Teves may be taking refuge, who has been staying abroad even before the Degamo slay, to hand over the congressman to Philippine authorities.

Teves continues to deny his involvement in the Degamo attack and said he would appeal his designation as terrorist. –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at