Defense dept vows to ensure anti-terror law won't be abused

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 05 2020 10:51 AM | Updated as of Jul 05 2020 11:23 AM

MANILA - The Philippines' defense department vowed Sunday it would ensure that the anti-terrorism law is not abused.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed the measure into law despite heavy opposition over fears it could be used to silence government critics.

The Department of National Defense urged the public to "give this law a chance and not to be swayed by misinformation and disinformation."

"We assure the public that we will strictly implement this law according to its intent and spirit. We will ensure that it is not abused," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.

"It is a much-needed measure to clothe law enforcement agencies with the necessary power to obtain and eradicate terrorists who don’t play by any rules and who hide behind our laws to pursue their evil deeds."

Critics have called out the bill on fears that it could be abused to violate basic rights due to the broad definition of "terrorism."

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said "no amount of assurances" from government would "mitigate the incidence of abuses because the law itself is abusive and derogatory of human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms."

"The repressive provisions in the law embolden law enforcers to perpetrate errant and arbitrary implementation against spirited ordinary citizens, progressive activists and political dissenters who have long been considered as 'enemies of the state,'" Lagman said in a separate statement.

"The new anti-terrorism law must be cleansed of its constitutional infirmities notwithstanding the say-so of its implementors."

Lagman said it was up to the Supreme Court to "excise the numerous oppressive and unconstitutional provisions of the new law in its adjudication of relevant petitions."