Torture survivors, desaparecidos’ kin file petition vs anti-terrorism act
MANILA, Philippines — Several anti-torture advocates, along with torture survivors and relatives of enforced disappearance victims, have filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) claiming that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is unconstitutional
Members of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines, a network of human rights groups and individuals against torture, claimed that Republic Act No. 11479 — which amended the existing Human Security Act of 2007 — contradicts current laws like R.A. 9745 or the Anti Torture Law of 2009.
The petitioners filed the petition for certiorari before SC on Friday, September 11, the birth anniversary of the late dictator and former president Ferdinand Marcos. They claimed that Marcos’ martial law rule bears a resemblance to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The coalition said that it is also a protest to proposals to make September 11 a local holiday in Ilocos Norte in honor of Marcos, who hailed from the province.
“While it is the duty of the Philippine government to protect its jurisdiction from the threat of terrorism, it should not be at the expense of fulfilling its mandate to promote, protect, and guarantee the exercise and enjoyment of all human rights,” co-petitioner Joy Lascano, Executive Director of the Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc. said.
Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) secretary general Joey Faustino, whose organization has focused on helping find justice for desaparecidos, said that the Anti-Terrorism Act also counters R.A. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012.
The Anti Terrorism Act is often criticized for allowing extended periods of detention, even without the official filing of cases, because a suspect supports terrorist acts and ideals.
“The ATA is also contrary to another human rights legislation, RA 10353, the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012. Torture and enforced disappearance are usually paired by unbridled authority,” Faustino stressed.
“We need laws […] to protect our rights, not to stifle them,” he added.
As of now, SC has received over 25 petitions against the hotly argued law, coming from legislators, lawyers, progressive groups, human rights organizations, members of the church, and even journalists and media practitioners.
SC said that it would start oral arguments on the issue by the third week of September.
Members of UATC-Philippines further noted that the Anti-Terrorism Act might adversely affect women and other humanitarian workers who might be tagged as people providing material support to terrorist groups.
“Given the dismal human rights record of the Duterte government and its misogynistic acts, the implementation of the ATA will have a chilling effect on every woman, especially the most vulnerable among us such as the prostituted women who have experienced acts of torture in the hands of authorities,” Coalition Against Trafficking in Women- Asia Pacific executive director Jean Enriquez said.
“We must ensure everyone from ambulance drivers to doctors can work without fear of prosecution or sanction,” Edeliza Hernandez, executive director of Medical Action Group (MAG) added.
Despite these fears, government officials supportive of the law appeased concerns by saying that there are provisions in R.A. 11479 aimed at safeguarding human rights. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that fears of the law are baseless, urging critics to give it a chance. [ac]
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