CHR reiterates plea to SC: ‘Nullify Anti-Terrorism Act’

Published August 25, 2021, 1:12 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reiterated its plea to the Supreme Court (SC) for the nullification of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 that “violate international human rights principles.”

ATA, under Republic Act No. 11479, has been challenged in 37 petitions filed with the SC which conducted oral arguments.

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo had said that the SC is expected to resolve the petitions before Dec. 31, 2021.

In pleading for the nullification of ATA, the CHR voiced its concern that the law may be misused to target dissenters, critics of the government, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, minority groups, labor activists, indigenous peoples, and members of the political opposition.

It pointed out several provisions in the law that violate human rights and freedoms of assembly and expression, and right to privacy, among other constitutionally-enshrined rights.

It its pleading filed with the SC, the CHR said it “expressed its views as to the unconstitutionality of the law and its non-conformity with international human rights principles.”

It said it stressed in its brief that the law violates the right to freedom of expression and opinion, the right to due process, and the right to presumption of innocence.

“For instance, by having a vague and unclear definition of terrorism, the law adversely affects the right to due process in that the people are not duly and precisely informed of the conduct to be avoided and the vague definition could encompass and implicate other protected human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it explained.

The CHR’s views on ATA were contained in its 123-page report entitled “Rights during a Pandemic: The 2020 Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines.”

The report was signed by CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon and Commissioners Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, Leah Tanodra-Armamento, and Roberto Eugenio T. Cadiz.

In its report, the CHR recommended that the judiciary should “develop jurisprudence that is in accord with international human rights obligations and adopt the principles espoused in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).