MANILA (UPDATE) – A lawyer’s group on Tuesday claimed “alarming” provisions were snuck in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said new provisions were introduced in the counter-terror law, which critics say grants state forces sweeping powers to address terrorism.
Under Rule 4.4 of the IRR, advocacy, protest, dissent, mass action, and creative, artistic and cultural expression, among others, can be considered acts of terrorism if they are intended to cause death and serious physical harm or create a serious risk to public safety, he said.
Such activities will also fall under terrorism when the purpose of the engagement is to intimidate the general public, spread a message of fear, provoke government by intimidation or seriously destabilize the fundamental political, economic or social structures.
The burden of proving such intent, the IRR said, lies with the prosecution arm of the government.
Violators of the law, which repealed the Human Security Act of 2007, will face life imprisonment without the benefits of parole and good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.
Olalia also expressed concern that the IRR allows any law enforcer to arrest a suspect without prior written authorization from the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
Rule 9.1 states that law enforcers shall bring charges against the arrested person before judicial authorities within a maximum of 36 hours.
But if agents can obtain written authorization, a suspect can be detained for a maximum of 24 days.
For Olalia, the implementing rules of the law, which has been previously criticized for being too broad, did not certainly clarify.
“As a matter of fact, it was a vain attempt to prettify the law and salvage the infirmities in the law, which is not allowed. It was a disingenuous way to cure what is already in the law itself,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact.”
While the IRR provides for a way to delist those designated as terrorists, it would only be done before their names are first published, Olalia said.
Those designated as terrorists only have 15 days from publication to file a request for delisting based only on the following grounds: mistaken identity, relevant and significant change of facts or circumstance, newly discovered evidence, death of a designated person, dissolution or liquidation of designated groups, and any other circumstance which would show basis for designation no longer exists.
It also doesn’t help that the ATC, a purely executive body, has the power to designate people or groups as terrorists, Olalia said.
“It doesn’t help. It doesn’t inspire confidence. It doesn’t inspire trust. Why? Because to start with, the composition of the council is already suspect so to speak. They are the same individuals involved in red tagging,” he added.
With the issuance of the IRR, which Olalia said lacks respect for basic rights, he fears the human rights situation in the country could only get worse.
“Even without the implementing rules in the law itself, the red-baiting has been vicious, relentless and incorrigible,” he said.
To date, 37 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the anti-terror law have already been filed before the Supreme Court.