Muslims tagged as Abu Sayyaf, Maute members join call to scrap anti-terror act
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Muslim communities tagged and charged as members of the terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute together with human rights lawyers and advocates have joined the call for the Supreme Court to nullify key provisions of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In a 78-page petition, individuals Main Mohammad, an imam, inmate Jimmy Bla and Nazr Dilangalen together with the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA) together with lawyers of the Ateneo Legal Services Center (ALSC) and individuals Main Mohammad, an imam, inmate Jimmy Bla and Nazr Dilangalen urged the high court to declare as unconstitutional the following provisions of the law:
section 3 (e) – defining Material Support;
section 10 – recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization;
section 12 – providing material support to terrorists.
section 25 – designation of terrorist individual, groups of persons, organizations or associations;
section 29 – detention without judicial warrant of arrest
section 34 – restriction on right to travel
section 36 – authority to freeze assets of suspected terrorists.
While the case is pending, petitioners urged the high court to issue a restraining order against its implementation.
Petitioners said that while what the law wants to achieve is laudable, “its terms are overbroad and subject to abuse, and its enactment is ill-timed.”
“Under the guise of carefully drafted legislation and purported checks, controls and balances, the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act give the impression of legality but in truth threaten and/or altogether violate the basic human liberties secured by the Bill of Rights. With the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act, constitutional guarantees are materially and substantially invaded,” the petitioners pointed out.
Petitioners believed that tagging persons as terrorists based solely on their religion could intensify because of the new law.
They pointed out that they are only three of the many individuals who have been tagged as a terrorist but was later on cleared by the courts for lack of evidence.
Other cases mentioned by petitioners include the 94 accused of kidnapping teachers and students in Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf commander turned government witness himself said that only 12 of the 94 participated in the kidnapping while the rest were innocent.
In 2012, the government offered a bounty for the capture of ASG militant Pedong Palam even though a man with that name has been in detention since early 2000. The man was eventually released in 2014 for lack of evidence.
“The enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act would make petitioners Mohammad, Bla, and Dilangalen – having been officially tagged as ASG or Maute members – vulnerable to being re-arrested and detained on mere suspicion of being ‘terrorists,’ even in the absence of probable cause,” petitioners said.
“This is because the Anti- Terrorism Act has removed the protections that the petitioners relied on in their defense against the indiscriminate apprehensions and unfounded criminal prosecutions made against them,” they added.
PAHRA, on the other hand, said they are also at risk of being labeled as terrorists because of their participation in human rights activities, specifically in fighting extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
In fact, they said their members have already been labeled by the Philippine National Police as “Persons of Interest.” The government’s state-owned media also featured an article where they have been labeled as having ties with the communist and receiving support from terrorist groups.
The legal aid lawyers from Ateneo also expressed the same apprehension because they handled cases of poor litigants charged with drugs, kidnapping, serious illegal detention, among others.
The high court has set an oral argument on the case in the third week of September.[ac]