Anti-terrorism law “unconstitutional, could trample human rights” — critics

The newly-enacted Republic Act No. 11479 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which gives more teeth to the government’s fight against terrorism and violent extremism, has been questioned by critics saying it is “unconstitutional and it could trample human rights.”

While the initial cases against the anti-terror law are challenging only several provisions, recent cases filed after the government started its implementation on July 18, 2020, are seeking to strike down the law as unconstitutional in its entirety.

The Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, said fears that the Anti-Terrorism Law is unconstitutional and could trample on people’s rights are unfounded.

“We maintain that the fears of these petitioners are unfounded. But we leave the final determination to the Supreme Court if it is constitutional or not,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said they would wait for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), to be crafted by the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Department of Justice, before the law can be implemented.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they are still drafting drafting the IRR that should be finished 90 days.

But Guevarra said the law will take effect even without the IRR because the promulgation of the IRR is not a condition for the effectivity of the law with some provisions tat are self-executing such as the organization of the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos, said critics have all the right to go to the courts.

“It is up to Supreme Court now to evaluate but we believe that there is nothing in the law that will defeat the people’s rights,” Santos said.

“Only the people involved in terrorism have reason to fear the new law,” Santos said.

“Only those who are in the business of committing terrorist acts as contained in the law should be afraid. Law-abiding citizens should not,” Santos said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, the author of the Anto-Terrorism Bill, said the law is a “landmark legislation” that seeks to boost the country’s drive against terrorism.