Terror law flouting rights? Go to Supreme Court, Palace tells critics

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 04:20 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2020 06:42 PM

Protesters hold a rally in UP Diliman on July 4, 2020 as they condemn the recently signed Anti-Terror Law. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— Critics of the anti-terrorism law should seek redress at the Supreme Court if they fear rights abuses, Malacañang said Tuesday, ahead of the release of the measure's implementing rules and regulations (IRR). 

The IRR will be published and deemed effective on Friday. Critics say the law would allow the detention of terror suspects for up to 24 days without charge, for vaguely defined terrorist crimes. To date, 37 petitions against the law have been filed at the high court since its signing in July.

The whole Anti-Terrorism Council will determine whether or not a person should be deemed a terrorist, which required " factual and legal basis," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. 

“Hindi po pupuwedeng basta-basta lang iyan or tagging lang iyan," he told reporters. “Kaya nga po ibinigay natin ang obligasyon na ‘yan hindi lang sa isang tao, kundi sa napakaraming tao. Let’s accord our public officers the presumption of regularity in the discharge of their functions.” 

(That can't be done recklessly or just for the sake of tagging someone as a terrorist. That's why we gave that obligation not just to one person, but many people.) 

“In any case kung sa tingin po nila (if they think) this is a violation of any right, they’re welcome to seek relief po sa ating Korte Suprema (in our Supreme Court),” he added. 

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The legislation defines terrorism as intending to cause death or injury, damage government or private property or use weapons of mass destruction to "spread a message of fear" or intimidate the government. 

The vague wording of the bill gives "almost absolute power to designate -- even wrongly, mistakenly or maliciously -- groups as 'terrorists'," the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) earlier said. 

The United Nations' human rights office has also criticized the legislation, saying in a recent report that it "dilutes human rights safeguards."

The Supreme Court has yet to act on the 37 petitions that mostly seek a suspension of the law's implementation.