Militants say amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 could deem anyone as a terrorist and jailed for a lifetime

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Terrorists in Phl

Several militant organizations have expressed opposition to the newly-approved  amendments  to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, saying “anyone could be deemed terrorist” and jailed “from 12 years to a lifetime.”

“Practically anyone who is arbitrarily branded or deemed as a ‘terrorist’ could be penalized under the approved bill. Under EO 70, the government has already institutionalized the branding and tagging of activists as ‘communists-terrorists.’  We oppose these draconian measures that will further abuse human rights and oppress Filipinos,” said Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

The militants opposed Executive Order No. 70, which is “Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a National Task Force to end local communist armed conflict, and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.”

On February 26, the Senate voted 19-2 and approved on third and final reading the measure the consolidated measures to amend and effectively repeal Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, what proponents of the amendments call a “weak law against terrorism”, and replace it with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The group said the bill, if passed,  will also hold liable any person who has knowledge of a commission of a “terrorist” act, despite having no direct participation therein, but profited or assisted the offender by concealing or destroying the body of the crime, or by harboring, concealing, or assisting in the escape of the principal or conspirator of the crime.

The penalty and jail time for such violations range from 12 years to lifetime imprisonment.

Human Rights group Karapatan also denounced the Senate’s approval of the anti-terrorism bill.

“The Senate version contains provisions that will legalize surveillance, warrantless arrests and arbitrary detention, cruel and disproportionate punishments, and violations on the right to freedom of association, free expression, right to privacy, mobility, and to due process. It also removes provisions from the present law regarding the rights-based approach to counter terrorism as well as the compensation for wrongful detention,” said the group in as statement.

Karapatan said the proposed measure, if passed into law, will only redound to graver human rights violations against communities, groups and individuals that may lead to crimes against humanity.

“We have witnessed how the powers of the State and its security forces have been used to trample on basic rights and fundamental freedoms. We have no doubt, that especially under the Duterte administration with an anti-terror legislation, such powers will be used with impunity against critics and political dissenters to preserve the current oppressive status quo,” said Karapatan.

The amendment bills in the Lower House of Congress seeks to impose even more stringent penalties than the bill pending in Senate – penalties of 10 years imprisonment for ‘glorification of terrorism’ and all other participation in the terrorist act (conspiring even alone, inciting) or link to a proscripted terrorist individual or organization by means of giving material support (even advice) could be levied a punishment of life imprisonment to death.

The bills also remove almost all the sanctions on erring law enforcement and police, including paying damages of P500,000 a day for every day of wrongful detention and paying damages of P500,000 a day for every day of freezing or forfeiting the accounts of a wrongly accused and acquitted person.

House Bill Nos. 551 (Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Muntinlupa), 2082 (Jericho Jonas Nograles, Puwersa ng Bayang Atleta Partylist), 2847 (Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr., Camarines Sur 2nd district), 3103 (Michael Romero, 1-Pacman Partylist), 3413 (Jocelyn Tulfo, Eric Yap at Rowena Nina Taduran, ACT-CIS Partylist) and 5710 (Lianda Bolilia, Batangas 4th district) are the proposed legislation to amend HSA pending before the House of Representatives.

The Lower House is set to deliberate on its consolidated counterpart proposals on March 2.

Human rights and activists groups decried the amendments to HSA and calls for the repeal of the law.

They deemed that the allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in Congress will push its passage before Congress is expected to adjourn from March 14 to May 3.

Proposed measures to amend HSA in the Senate included Senate Bills Nos. 6 (Tito Sotto), 630 (Imee Marcos) at 1083 (Tito Sotto, Imee Marcos, Panfilo Lacson at Senate Committee sa National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation at Finance).

The administration of Duterte has been pushing for the amendments of HSA.

Key officials in his Cabinet such as the secretaries of Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año and National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon – former top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – have been vocal in their support for amending HSA./Stacy Ang

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