'24-day detention without charges': Anti-terror bill unconstitutional, says rights lawyer


Posted at Jun 03 2020 09:35 AM | Updated as of Jun 03 2020 09:47 AM

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Lawyer blasts 24-day detention without charges, wrongful detention without fines

MANILA - The proposed anti-terror bill is unconstitutional and takes away power from the judiciary to the executive branch of government, a human rights lawyer said Wednesday.

Chel Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said the measure allows the detention of individuals up to 24 days without court intervention, which he described as "clearly unconstitutional."

"Under the Constitution, even when the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, no one should be detained more than 3 days without charges," he told ANC.

"But under the proposed bill, the person can be detained initially for a period of 14 days without charges and that period can be extended by another 10 days and that is without court intervention. The only thing needed is the clearance from the anti-terrorism council."

Under the measure, the anti-terrorism council will be composed of 9 members of the President's Cabinet and may designate individuals or groups as terrorists.

"One of our concerns is this is taking away the judicial power and giving it to the executive," Diokno said.

"To me, it’s beyond the power of the council to have that power to designate. If ever Congress should give that power, it should be given to the courts. So then we can be assured that the decision-makers are independent, objective, or impartial and that their decisions to designate a group as suspected terrorists are based on evidence."

Anyone designated by the anti-terrorism council may be subjected to surveillance and even warrantless arrest, Diokno warned.

The measure also creates the new crime of inciting to terrorism, patterned after the crimes of inciting to sedition and rebellion, he added.

"If you look at how (these) have been used in the past, they have been used to go after members of the political opposition. And that’s the fear, that the law will not be really used to go after real terrorist but to go after perceived critics of the administration and then paint them as criminals," he said.

The bill also removes the P500,000 fine per day that a person is wrongfully detained for supposed terrorism.

"There has to be accountability that’s why with the original Human Security Act that provision was put in by Congress. If the law enforcement are doing their jobs, they should not concerned by any potential liability," he said.

"That provision is for those who deliberately misuse the law."

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the bill on 2nd reading, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

Malacañang defended the measure and said "no draconian" provisions will be introduced to amend the Human Security Act of 2007.