CHR questions limited role in anti-terror bill

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 01:32 PM

Protesters march and picket against the Anti-Terror Bill in Quezon City on June 3, 2020, amid the general community quarantine which still bans mass gatherings. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) questioned Thursday its limited role in the controversial Anti-Terror Bill which awaits President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.

The final provision in the measure only requires authorities to “report” to the commission the details of their planned arrest, according to CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.

Legislators sought the CHR’s opinion and recommendation once, she added.

“Dun sa penal provision nawala si CHR. So baka mamaya, ang fear natin ay hindi sabihin sa CHR, hindi natin alam na mayroon na palang isang detained suspected terrorist, and therefore we cannot verify and ascertain the condition of that detained person,” she told ABS-CBN News.

(The CHR was taken out in the penal provision. Our fear is that they won't inform CHR if there's already a detained suspected terrorist, and therefore we cannot verify and ascertain the condition of that detained person.)
The CHR is also alarmed by the allowed detention period on warrantless arrests, which under the anti-terror law is at least 14 days. This could mean more torture hours for a suspected terrorist, De Guia said.

Detention of suspects committing “grave offenses” in regular cases is only 36 hours, she said, citing Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. 

“Ang problema rito (The problem here is), it does not take into consideration the physical and mental well-being ng isang (of a) suspected person,” De Guia said.

“Pagka tumatagal 'yung panahon na nasa detention, tumataas 'yung vulnerability to torture and to cruel inhumane treatment or punishment. And of course dahil suspected terrorist ka, ang tendency ng pamahalaan is to pressure and to interrogate."

(When a person is detained for a long period of time, their vulnerability to torture and to cruel inhumane treatment or punishment increases. And of course because you're suspected terrorist, government tends to pressure and interrogate.)

The definition of the word “terrorist” in the bill is too broad that anybody can eventually be branded as such by the government, De Guia said.

The bill identifies as terrorists those who belong to terror groups as identified by the United Nations Security Council, and those who commit terror acts or aid terrorists through planning, conspiracy, recruitment, publishing propaganda, and providing material support, among others. 

Authorities may also apply for the proscription of certain groups and individuals as terrorists before the courts. 

The measure may also bring danger even to those who are simply joining rallies or expressing their dissent to the government, she said.

The body also objects to the removal of its "concurrent prosecutory power under the old law," said CHR commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana.

The CHR advised the public to immediately communicate with the commission through their “e-lawyering” system should they feel that their rights are being violated.