Can anti-terror law be used vs left-leaning groups? Depends on evidence, says Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2020 06:04 PM

A woman raises a placard calling on legislators to scrap the proposed anti-terror bill that has drawn concern from human rights activists who fear it could be used to suppress free speech and harass those who challenge President Rodrigo Duterte, in Quezon City, June 4, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA-- The anti-terror law can only be used against left-leaning groups if evidence proves that they are affiliated with organizations engaged in terrorism, Malacañang said Monday in light of concerns that the new law can be used to silence government critics.

Groups tagged as terrorists by the United Nations will be the first that the Philippines would classify as one too, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said ahead of the effectivity of the new law.

"Can the left-leaning groups be classified? Depende po yan sa ebidensya (It would depend on the evidence)," Roque, a former rights lawyer, said during a Palace press briefing.

"Kinakailangan mapakita na sila ay kabahagi, kaalyado ng isang grupo na naclassify na po as terrorist group," he added.

(It has to be proven that they are part or allied with a group that has already been classified as a terrorist group.)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed the law even as the country grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measure would let Duterte appoint a council that could order warrantless arrests of people it deems are terrorists. 

It also allows for up to 24 days of detention without charge, which the government argues is necessary to combat long-running communist and Islamist insurgencies.

The law is being challenged at the Supreme Court due to fears that it could be used to silence government critics.

Roque however noted that it is "expressly provided" in the law that criticism is not prohibited.

On Saturday, 11 anti-terror law protesters were arrested in Laguna.