IBP seeks veto of longer detention period in Anti-Terror bill

Published June 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jeffrey Damicog 

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has advised Malacanang not to follow other countries which have longer detention periods against persons who have been arrested without warrants and called for the veto of this provision under the proposed Anti-Terrorism bill (ATB).

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN)
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN)

This was one of the points the IBP raised in its comments and recommendations which were sought by Malacanang concerning the ATB.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has in the past vetoed bills with constitutional defects. We hope that with the same care, prudence, and political will, we can have an effective anti-terrorism law that does not go beyond the carefully crafted balance, safeguards, and guarantees of our fundamental law,” read the letter of IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa which Malacanang received on Monday, June 23.

The IBP submitted the comments and recommendations in response to the June 9 letter of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Ryan Alvin Acosta who informed the IBP that the Office of the Presidents has sought for its inputs on the ATB.

“The IBP, as a sentinel of the rule of law, and all its members who have taken an oath to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, welcome the opportunity to submit inputs in the crafting of better laws. In line with our nature as a non-political and professional organization, we objectively focus on the constitutional issues spawned by the ATB,” read Cayosa’s letter.

The IBP admitted that “other countries have comparatively longer periods of detention of suspected terrorists is a fact.”

“However, it does not necessarily follow that the Philippines should go their way.” It questioned provisions of the bill which allows the detention of persons arrested without warrant from 14 to 24 days without charges being filed.

“The constitutions of these countries with longer detention periods “do not set limits to detentions without judicial charge or as much principles and jurisprudence on due process,” the IBP explained.

“They do not have comparable issues of abuse, trust, and accountability,” it added.

The IBP reminded that Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution “allows only three days detention without charging the suspect in court even in the extreme critical situation of invasion or rebellion, suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and the existence of the Republic is imperiled.”

“The fact that the ATB compels the arresting officer to ‘immediately inform’ the judge of the nearest court, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the IBP Legal Aid Committee, or the Public Attorneys Office (in case they need free legal aid) upon arresting a suspected terrorist is cold comfort for the detainee since the court cannot do much unless a charge is filed before it,” it said.

The IBP added that the arresting officer can invoke Section 29 of the ATB which reads “any law enforcement agent or military personnel who, having been duly authorized by the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council) has taken custody of a person suspected of committing any of the act defined and penalized under Sections 4-12…”

“Section 29 is unconstitutional because it does not prescribe the process or the standards by which the ATC will issue the written authority to detain for 14-24 days,” warned the IBP which cited that the Constitution states that it is the judge who issues a warrant of arrest only upon “probable cause.”

Since the principal author of the bill has publicly clarified that the ATC has no power to issue arrest warrants or detention, the IBP said this should be “a compelling reason to correct the wording of Section 29 to clearly reflect the true intent of the legislature and to avoid misapplication.”

The IBP also questioned Section 25 of the ATC which allowed the ATC to designate a suspected terrorist and, upon mere probable cause, freeze his or her assets through the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

“It is significant that proscription proceedings before the Court of Appeals give the suspects a chance to be heard,” it said as it cited provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007 which the ATB intends to replace.

“The zeal or need for quick decisions can be sufficiently addressed by setting time limits for the Court of Appeals to decide,” the IBP advised.

“There is no need to upset the constitutional safeguards of due process or grant an executive agency excessive powers not allowed by the Constitution,” it added.

The IBP also described as “vague and over broad and do not meet constitutional standards” paragraphs (a), (b),(c) of Section 4 of the ATB that define terrorist acts.

“They are susceptible to abuse by a law enforcer who could arrest those legitimately exercising their constitutional rights or upgrade an ordinary crime to terrorism by merely alluding the prohibited ‘intent’ to his targets and detain them for a period of 14-24 days without any judicial charge,” it said.

The IBP also observed that Section 34 of the ATB, which allows house arrest of a suspect despite being granted bail, “renders nugatory the constitutional rights to be presumed innocent and to post bail.”

“ATB seems to allow guilt by association, a principle that is rejected in constitutional and criminal law principles. Punishing indirect incitement may be considered unwarranted prior restraint to freedom of expression,” it also said.

The IBP assured that it will not “shirk from the responsibility of helping those truly in need” after it found that the IBP’s legal aid program has been tasked by the ATB to provide assistance to arrested terrorists.

“We could have suggested more workable arrangements had IBP been invited to the relevant hearings on the Anti-Terrorism bill,” the IBP said in response to this provision of the ATB.