Esperon assures citizens on new anti-terrorism law; says IRR will be issued within 90 days

Published July 6, 2020, 3:34 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disclosed on Monday that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is expected to be released within 90 days after its effectivity.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (REY BANIQUET/Presidential Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

Esperon, who will serve as the concurrent vice chairperson of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), said the IRR is needed for the “proper and effective” implementation of the law.

According to Section 54 of the newly-signed law, the IRR should be released within 90 days,” Esperon said in an interview over GMA-7’s Unang Hirit.

“Kailangan natin ito dahil dapat magkaroon ng proper at effective implementation ng mga programa dahil ito ay talaga namang very technical at kailangan ang units na involved ay… mabuo at ang mga tao na nakasama sa organization ay mabigyan ng written designation (We need this in order to have a proper and effective implementation of the program since it is very technical and the units involved should be formed and the people included in the organization should be given a written designation),” he added.

Under Section 54 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the ATC –which would be chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea– and the Department of Justice (DOJ) “shall promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act within ninety (90) days after its effectivity.”

The crafting of IRR shall be done “with the active participation of the police and military institutions,” which are the primary enforcers of the new law.

The Anti-Terrorism Act was signed by President Duterte and published on the Official Gazette last Friday, July 3. It will take effect on July 18 as earlier confirmed by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

This means that the IRR of the Anti-Terrorism Act shall be made available on or before October 16, 2020.

Provisions in question

One of the highly debated provisions in the new law is Section 29, which allows the detention of suspects without a judicial warrant of arrest, or a “warrantless arrest.”

Section 29 states that a suspected terrorist may be arrested even without a warrant for 14 days and extendable by up to 10 days even without a warrant from the court.

Critics claimed that the 24-day detention without a judicial warrant or charge, which is longer than the three-day period under the repealed Human Security Act of 2007, is deemed unconstitutional and may violate the human rights of the detainee.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier explained that the longer detention of a suspect is needed to allow more time for law enforcers to gather evidence and prove that the suspect is a terrorist.

At present, there are only three circumstances where a “lawful” warrantless arrest can be effected.

Under Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court, a peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When and offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.

In the Anti-Terrorism Act, Esperon justified Section 29 as he said that a deliberate process will have to be made before a law enforcer can effect a warrantless arrest, since they are dealing with suspected terrorists and not just ordinary criminals.

“Sa Anti-Terrorism Act, may mga gagawin munang steps bago makagawa ng ganyan. Una na ang designation ng terrorist groups at personalities (In the Anti-Terrorism Act, we have to do several steps before we can effect [a warrantless arrest]. First is the designation of terrorist groups and personalities),” he said.

He noted that the Anti-Terrorism Council will adopt the list of terrorists and terrorist organizations made by the United Nations Security Council which supposedly includes the Islamic State (ISIS) and Islamiyah among others.

Further, the Anti-Terrorism Council has also the power to proscript or designate groups or individuals as terrorists as stated under Section 26 of the law.

“The second source of our targets is through proscription where the DOJ, with the direction from the Anti-Terrorism Council, will go to the Court of Appeals to submit the names of organizations and individuals who shall be proscripted for them to be considered as terrorists,” he explained.

This particular power of the ATC, could facilitate “red-tagging” of the government’s critics, according to those opposed to the new law.

Esperon reiterated his assurance that the new law has enough safeguards to keep it from being abused by law enforcers.

He cited Section 22 which provides for a penalty of 10 years in prison for officers who violate the disposition of classified information obtained through surveillance of suspects; Section 24, that provides a penalty of 10 years imprisonment for officers who conduct surveillance without judicial authorization; and Section 29 that imposes 10 year imprisonment for officers who fail to immediately notify the court about the detention of a suspected terrorist via a warrantless arrest.

Esperon said that the Senate and House of Representatives will create a Joint Oversight Committee following the crafting of the Anti-Terrorism Act’s IRR.