Anti-Terror Law can be used against social media users—Duterte gov’t

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Social media users beware!

According to President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, authorities can now use social media as basis for identifying terror suspects under a new law that gives law enforcers additional powers against extremists, after the chief executive signed the controversial and dangerous bill on Friday.

During  a Laging Handa press briefing on Saturday, when asked about whether or not online activity may be cited in identifying terror suspects, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon  said:  “Maaari (possibly).”

“Hindi kaagad ay manghuhuli tayo dahil mayroon nang Anti-Terrorism Act (We will not immediately arrest because we now have the Anti-Terrorism Act.),” Esperon said.

Esperon  said the National Security Council (NDC) will adopt the list of extremists by the United Nations’ Security Council and Office of Counter-Terrorism.

Currently tagged as a terrorist organization by the UN is the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, which is responsible for deadly bombings and abductions mostly in southern Philippines.

Esperon said that under procedure, the justice secretary will then submit to the Court of Appeals a petition that identifies groups and individuals that should be deemed as terrorists.

The court will have six months to decide on whether or not to grant the petition. After this, terror suspects will be under surveillance for up to 90 days which could lead to arrest, he said.

Under the law, suspects can be detained for up to 24 days without charges, a provision which opponents allege violates a 3-day limit set by the Philippine constitution.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed it on Friday.

Critics also claimed that the legislation strips away old safeguards, such as penalties against law enforcers for wrongful detention of suspects.

Esperon said law enforcers are required to report arrests to the anti-terrorism council, the Commission on Human Rights and the court. They could face 10 to 12 years in prison for wrongful arrests.

The legislation also exempts advocacy, protest, dissent and stoppage of work, he said.

Several opposition lawmakers and groups have vowed to question the law before the Supreme Court, which they said could be used to target government critics.

“Anong ikinakatakot nila? Itong ating law-abiding citizens ay walang dapat ikatakot dahil itong anti-terrorism law ay para sa kapakanan at seguridad ng law-abiding citizens (What are they afraid of? Our law-abiding citizens should have nothing to fear because this anti-terrorism law is for their welfare and security.),” Esperon said.

“Ang mga natatakot dito ngayon ay iyong sinasabing tahimik daw sila pero nagsusuporta naman sa terorista, nagsusuporta naman sa armed struggle  (Those who are afraid of this are claim they are quiet but are supporting terrorists, supporting armed struggle.),” Esperon said.

The law takes effect on July 18, said Malacañang. The national security council will “review” the law and come up with implementing rules and regulations, Esperon said.

Meanwhile, Esperon Jr. on Saturday said law-abiding citizens should not worry about the Anti-Terrorism Act recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, adding that critics are not closely reading the provisions of the law.

“Sa pag-question nila sa Anti-Terrorism Law sa Supreme Court ay karapatan nila, hindi natin pipigilan ‘yan, we’ll even encourage them,” Esperon said at the Laging Handa public briefing, as some members of the opposition in the Senate are set to question the constitutionality of the law before the Supreme Court.

“Ngunit kung nabasa lang sana nila, dahil meron akong palagay na hindi nila binabasa itong provisions ng Anti Terrorism Law,” he said.

Esperon cited Section 4 of the Republic Act 11479, stating that terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”

“Ano ang ikinakatakot nila? Itong ating law-abiding citizens ay wala dapat ikatakot dahil itong Anti-Terrorism Law ay para sa kapakanan at para sa seguridad… ito ay ginawa para labanan natin ang terorismo,” Esperon said./Stacy Ang

 

 

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