CHR urges Duterte to look into provisions of Anti-Terrorism Act

Published July 15, 2020, 1:26 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged President Duterte to seriously look into the provisions of the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 and consider its implications on people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

In its advisory on the human rights implications of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the CHR reminded the government of its obligation to fulfill, promote, and protect human rights against abuses and exploitation even as it battles terrorism.

“The State has to adopt effective counter-terrorism measures in order to protect its sovereignty, national security, and peace and order against the threat of terrorism,” the CHR said. “But this must be done without compromising everyone’s fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The CHR said effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are actually “complementary,” so the government must pursue one while respecting the other.

It added that the government may take certain measures that put limitations on the exercise of certain rights, which include the right of association and assembly, right to free speech and expression, and the right to privacy and due process.

However, the CHR warned that these restrictions must be authorized and prescribed by law, jurisprudence, and international human rights obligations.

“States can limit the exercise of these rights for valid reasons, including the need of countering terrorism, as long as they respect several conditions,” the CHR said.

President Duterte signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Bill last July 3 despite public uproar against it. Several individuals and organizations such as the CHR has expressed concern that the bill would lead to more human rights abuses because of the “overbroad” definition of terrorism.

Its vague and overbroad definition of terrorism, according to the Commission, makes it difficult to distinguish an actual act of terrorism to that of an ordinary crime, which is already penalized by the Revised Penal Code and other pertinent laws.