Human rights groups warned this week against “weaponizing” the country’s anti-terrorism law following the Supreme Court’s decision dismissing petitions to junk the controversial legislation.
“The death-dealers will have a heyday weaponizing this law to red tag, harass and even imprison and kill human rights defenders, environmental activists, climate justice rights defenders and all who raise their voices in dissent,” said Carmelite priest Christian Buenafe, chairperson of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines.
“We pray that the anti-terror law will not be used to silence dissent,” said the priest, adding that a democracy “thrives on dissent and a free flow of ideas.”
He said the task force “regrets that the Supreme Court denied with finality the motions for reconsideration regarding the Anti-Terror Law.”
The Supreme Court has earlier turned down appeals raised by activist and human rights groups to reconsider its decision denying motions to strike down parts of the country’s anti-terrorism law.
The court said the motions on an earlier decision on the petitions challenging Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act were denied “due to lack of substantial issues and arguments raised by the petitioners.”
The law, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, 2020, has been challenged by a total of 37 petitions before the court.
Human rights group Karapatan said the terror law “is a dangerous piece of legislation which directly harms our basic rights and freedoms.”
“By denying with finality our motions for reconsideration, the Supreme Court has upheld the law’s most draconian provisions — from the vague and overbroad definition of ‘terrorism,’ the arbitrary powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate and freeze assets of individuals and organizations tagged as ‘terrorists,’ and the 24-day period of warrantless detention,” said the group.
It warned that law’s provisions “would only engender the commission of human rights violations under the cover of implementing this terror law.”
Karapatan said it would continue its call for the declaration of the law “unconstitutional.”
In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers expressed hope “that in good time the subject law will be struck down or amended, if not repealed altogether.”
In December, the Supreme Court struck down the part of Section 4 of the law, which states that an action linked to a protest, advocacy, or dissent could be considered terrorism if it is intended to cause death or physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.
A separate vote voided part of Section 25 on the second method of designating terrorists, referring to the requests of other countries to designate terrorists that may be adopted by the Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Council. – with a report from Marielle Lucenio
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