MANILA, Philippines — A United Nations independent expert on terrorism expressed concerns over the controversial anti-terrorism bill in the Philippines, saying the proposed legislation will have “serious” implications on the work of civil societies and humanitarian actors.
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN special rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism, said the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 goes “far beyond the ambit of international law and seeks to criminalize behavior and action which is in fact protected by international law.”
“What we see now in this piece of particular legislation in the Philippines is the enactment of legislation whose definition of what constitute terrorism is broad, vague, lacks legal certainty and precision, creating challenges for individuals to understand precisely what kind of action will be designated as terrorism,” Ní Aoláin said in an online forum organized by Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines Friday.
“In these broad and overreaching pieces of legislation, there are serious concerns for human rights, specifically concerns for civil societies and civil society actors and also humanitarian actions and humanitarian actors,” she added.
The UN expert said she is also concerned that the proposed measure will have “significant” implications and consequences on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
She also sounded alarm on the extended period of detention and powers given to the Anti-Terrorism Council, a special body composed of presidential appointees that would permit law enforcement authorities to arrest people it designates as terrorists.
“My mandate has made clear that terrorism is a real and challenging problem for many states but advancing and responding to terrorism cannot be done in a way which is not human rights compliant because that is neither efficient nor effective in the long run,” Ní Aoláin said.
The special rapporteur called for a “robust” conversation about the implications of the proposed law.
“We ought to understand we are not made more secure and more free by legislation that impinges fundamentally on human rights in the name of countering terrorism,” she said.
Earlier, the UN human rights office said the anti-terrorism bill will “risk eroding constitutional and other legal protections” and “dilutes human rights safeguards.”
The controversial bill is now being reviewed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s legal team. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is “inclined to” sign the proposed measure, noting that the president marked the bill as urgent.
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