Silliman U law prof on anti-terror bill: Why allow non-judicial council to order arrests, searches?

/ 07:29 PM June 05, 2020

DUMAGUETE CITY—A law professor here has questioned the authority of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to order the arrest of people tagged as terrorists.

Lawyer Golda Benjamin, of the Silliman University’s College of Law, said the ATC could not usurp powers that only courts may exercise.


“The Anti-Terrorism Act gives this power to the Anti-Terrorist Council – which is purely an executive council,” she said.

“Is our Constitution dead? Why are they taking away the power of the courts?,” she added.


Benjamin, also senior researcher for Southeast Asia and representative of the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, said only the United Nations Security Council or international bodies with no border restrictions are mandated with the task of identifying or ordering the arrest of terror suspects.

She warned that giving this kind of power to the ATC would lead to warrantless arrests by law enforcers.

“If the Anti-Terrorism Council designates you as a terrorist, does this mean that automatically you are a suspected terrorist? Where’s the presumption of innocence?,” she said.

Benjamin said one who is merely tagged as a terror suspect could be wiretapped without any court order.

She also described as “problematic” the power of the ATC to

identify, integrate and synchronize all government and non-government initiatives and resources to prevent radicalization and violent extremism.

“What does this mean?” Benjamin said.


“The Anti-Terrorism Council will now have the power to order businesses and non-governmental organizations to disclose their fund sources and also order their private entities how to use their resources,” she said.

Benjamin cited differences between the anti-terror bill now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature and the current Human Security Act of 2007.

“It opens up the door to designate just about anyone as terrorist,” she said.

“You might think it exempts protests and mass actions – but not if intended to provoke government, as most protests tend to do,” Benjamin said. “You think we didn’t notice that cleverly-crafted provision?”

Negros Oriental Rep. Josy Sy-Limkaichong said amendments to the existing anti-terror law violate the right to due process and liberty. Senate President Vicente Sotto III had clarified that the new anti-terror bill is not just an amendment to the existing one but an entirely new law.

“What this means is that this bill empowers the law enforcers to arrest and detain anyone they feel can be tagged as terrorist – even without a warrant of arrest,” said Limkaichong.

“When signed by the President, this law would indisputably be open to abuse, given the state of our law enforcement and the justice system,” she added.

Edited by TSB
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