Philippine anti-terrorism law

Guevarra: Threat, proposal, inciting to terrorism need ‘more detail’ in IRR

Lian Buan

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Guevarra: Threat, proposal, inciting to terrorism need ‘more detail’ in IRR
If they are not detailed enough, aren't these provisions void for vagueness? 'Let's ask the Supreme Court,' says Guevarra

On the first day of the anti-terror law’s effectivity, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra again appealed to law enforcement to wait for the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) before taking actions, especially if these fall under the crimes of threatening, proposing, and inciting to commit terrorism.

“These are one-liner sections of the anti-terror law that need to be fleshed with more detail for the guidance of everyone,” Guevarra said on Saturday, July 18.

Generally, the effectivity of the law is not conditioned on the promulgation of the IRR, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) has 90 days from Saturday to do, but Guevarra said it would be “prudent to wait.”

“If the government has intelligence information that an ISIS-infiltrated group is about to blow up the MRT, our law enforcers will probably not wait for the promulgation of the IRR to take the appropriate action,” said Guevarra.

“Otherwise, if there are no such imminent threats, it will really be more prudent to await the promulgation of the IRR,” added the justice secretary, making an examples of Sections 5, 8, and 9 on threatening, proposal and inciting to commit terrorism.

On inciting to commit terrorism, Guevarra said: “I suppose that a provision defining an offense and imposing a penalty of 12-year imprisonment, such as that under section 9, needs to be carefully reviewed.”

Section 4, which broadened the definition of terrorism and makes dissent an act of terror if it’s found with an intent to cause harm or risk, is also a provision that “the IRR may have to delve into more deeply,” said Guevarra.  (READ: Beware of that two-faced clause in the anti-terror law)

Void for vagueness?

The petition filed by Constitution framers Christian Monsod and Felicitas Arroyo, together with lawyers from Ateneo and Xavier, pointed out that if Guevarra believed an IRR was badly needed to implement the law, then the provisions were void for vagueness.

“As RA No.11479 does not set these standards and will have to rely on the IRR for more clearly-defined parameters, it must be struck down as unconstitutional,” said their petition.

Asked to respond whether his insistence on the IRR makes the provisions void for being vague, Guevarra said “let’s ask the Supreme Court.”

Guevarra said the IRR will endeavor to specify acts under these provisions “to the extent possible.”

“It’s difficult to cover every conceivable act,” said the justice secretary.

In a 233-page comment filed before the Supreme Court, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) insisted that such provisions were not vague.

The OSG said Sections 5, 8 and 9 “fall within the same class of crimes already punished under the Revised Penal Code, such as Grave Threats under Article 282, Inciting to War or Giving Motives for Reprisal under Article 118, Proposal to Commit Rebellion under Article 136, Inciting Rebellion or Insurrection under Article 138, and Inciting to Sedition under Article 142.”

“Section 4 is clear and does not suffer from vagueness or overbreadth,” said the OSG’s comment.

If the OSG stands firm that these provisions were not vague, then why does the DOJ insist on waiting for an IRR to clarify them?

“An IRR will not supplant what the law provides. It will neither add to nor reduce the law’s provisions. What it does is merely to flesh out details pursuant to the law’s parameters for better enforcement,” said Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete. –

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Lian Buan

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