Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez
MANILA – Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez told American lawmakers that Manila’s new Anti-Terror Law (ATL) mandates the protection of human rights at all times.
“The Philippines remains committed to the protection of civil and political liberties as well as human rights. The Anti-Terrorism Act itself strongly mandates that human rights shall be absolute and protected at all times,” he said in a July 16 letter to the 45 US lawmakers who called on the government to repeal the law.
Romualdez underscored its importance by noting the Human Security Act of 2007 has been “woefully ineffective” in addressing the terrorist threat in the Philippines.
He added that the previous law only enabled one conviction since coming into force despite several acts committed in the Philippines that fall under terrorism.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act aims to plug the loopholes in the Human Security Act by putting in place a more effective legal framework that would enable a criminal justice response to terrorist acts beyond that allowed for by the Revised Penal Code,” he said.
Romualdez noted that the law provides “significant safeguards” to prevent abuses, including warrantless detention.
“Its prescribed period on warrantless detention is also not materially dissimilar from the anti-terrorism laws of other countries, including those in the West. Importantly, the power of determining with finality who are to be regarded as terrorists resides with the judicial system through proscription,” he said.
“What the law signifies is the Philippine government’s strong resolve to combat terrorism and to implement a more effective and comprehensive approach to such a serious threat that knows no borders,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terror bill into law last July 3 despite opposition from several sectors over fears of abuse.
In his letter, Romualdez defended the law, saying it “properly defines” what are considered acts of terrorism, predicated by certain conditions, i.e., violent actions and violent purpose.
Aside from the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days without a warrant, the law also allows 60-day surveillance with an allowable 30-day extension against suspected terrorists.
The law also imposes a 12-year jail term on a person who voluntarily or knowingly joins a terrorist organization. (PNA)