Warrantless arrests? AFP eyes stronger law vs suspected terrorists

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2017 07:54 PM

MANILA - The country needs to strengthen its defenses against terrorism after the months-long Marawi siege, possibly including a law similar to Singaporean and Malaysian legislation allowing warrantless arrests of suspected individuals, a military official said Wednesday. 

It is important to "capacitate your security forces to do their jobs" or else the country will again be at the mercy of "extremists who will take advantage of the softness of our laws," said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

"We need to see and study the Human Security Act of Singapore, of Malaysia, which capacitates security forces to effect arrests on suspected individuals who may be harboring, planning or thinking of doing things…without an arrest warrant," he told ANC's Headstart.

"They can detain persons they suspect and then file the cases after about I don't know how long, but it's longer than ours," he said.

Padilla said safeguards such as the presence of legal counsel and video documentation of the arrests may be put in place to prevent abuse of power on the side of the military.

The Philippines passed its own Human Security Act in 2007, which defines acts of terrorism and, under Section 18, allows the detention of a suspect without an arrest warrant but requires that the person in custody be brought to "the proper judicial authority within a period of three days counted from the moment the said charged or suspected person has been apprehended or arrested, detained, and taken into custody by the said police, or law enforcement personnel."

Strengthening the military, he said, had been a "very critical and very wise move" from past administrations as equipment they have acquired was helpful in the Marawi battle.

"You saw that your soldiers, your airmen, your marines, your sailors, your coast guards, and policemen in this particular setting were all very professional. We did our job and we have to evolve, we must capacitate, we must equip, we must protect our soldiers who are always at the front lines," said Padilla.

State troopers have been battling Islamic State-inspired extremists in the predominantly Muslim city since May 23. 

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Tuesday that Marawi had been "liberated from terrorists," even as some 30 more are known to remain holed up in the battle area, keeping 20 hostages. 

The Commander-in-Chief's declaration came after the killing of terror leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon. 

More than 800 have been killed in the firefights, among them 163 state troops and 47 civilians. The conflict has forced some 400,000 residents to evacuate from the city and nearby towns, and has left much of Marawi in ruins.