Statement of the Commission on Human Rights welcoming the Supreme Court Rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights welcoming the Supreme Court Rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauds the Supreme Court’s issuance of the rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 and views this as a positive development towards the further clarification of the law. The CHR will continue to monitor the implementation of the law, to ensure that it will be utilized as envisioned: a law that fully combats terrorism while at the same time observing due process and the human rights of concerned parties.

The SC Rules addresses various concerns ranging from detentions, surveillance orders, designation, and proscription. As this takes effect, we are hopeful that this development paves the path towards ensuring that the rights of all Filipinos are protected and provided avenues for remedy under the law and within their constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court issued particular guidelines which ensure that the fundamental constitutional rights of any individual or group designated under the ATA are not violated. Particularly, the Rules provided: (i) a judicial relief before the Court of Appeals through a Petition for Certiorari–a remedy not explicitly provided under the ATA and its IRR; (ii) the need to produce clear and convincing evidence for the issuance of a Permanent Order of Proscription as compared to mere probable cause in cases of a Preliminary Order of Proscription; (iii) a shorter twenty-four (24) hour period to furnish the trial court, Anti-Terror Council (ATC), and the CHR in cases of arrest made without a warrant.

The Rules also clarified that the period of detention must comply with the periods provided under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code unless extended through a written request from the ATC. Such request must be accompanied by a sworn statement which shall include the details of the person and the basis for their arrest. The extension must be made prior to the expiration of the provided under the RTC. Also, a conduct of an independent medical examination of the detainee, including the transfer of detention facilities and authorisation of audio and video recordings of the interrogation may be required by the designated Regional Trial Court judge to further protect the rights of the detained person against torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment.

CHR recognizes the efforts of the Supreme Court to directly address the vagueness of the phrase “immediately after” as stated under RA 11479 and the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the ATA as this ensures there are safety mechanisms against abuses in the exercise of anyone’s power to arrest by defining a period for notification and reports.

It is also worth noting that the Rules also provides vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant, persons with disability, women, and children additional safeguards to protect their rights. By providing a definition on the “due regard for the welfare” phrase used in the law and the IRR, the Supreme Court is also able to expound on the level of protection that must be afforded to those who belong to the said population.

CHR welcomes the procedural rules released by the Supreme Court as this responds to the human rights concerns being raised upon the passage of the ATA. While it is important to recognize the existence of legitimate security threats in the country, laws that attempt to address this matter should pay attention to the holistic goal of securing a peaceful environment and progressive development for the country. Such could be done by providing safeguards that prevent the ATA from being abused by law enforcement agents and that civil liberties remain to be freely exercised by all.

We remain vigilant to ensure that the law will truly be utilised to combat terrorism. After all, a healthy and functional democracy rests on a productive exchange of thoughts, grievances, and dialogue between the State and its people.

The Commission consistently calls upon the government to remain committed to its human rights obligations by ensuring that the laws being implemented protect and enhance the rights of all Filipinos. We are hopeful that fostering the rule of law to further advance a more humane society will be the common goal of all, where the free exercise of speech and expression are treated as the beating heart of a functioning democracy.###