ANTI-TERRORISM ACT: New law uses ‘comprehensive’ approach vs. terrorism

Republic Act (RA) 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, 2020, aims to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism deemed as “inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the people.”

FIGHTING TERRORISM. An Islamic State flag is among the paraphernalia recovered from an anti-terror operation in Parañaque City on June 26, 2020. Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday (July 3, 2020), aims to strengthen the country’s capability to curb terror threats and acts. (PNA file photo)

“The State recognizes that the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach, comprising political, economic, diplomatic, military, and legal means duly taking into account the root causes of terrorism without acknowledging these as justifications for terrorist and/or criminal activities,” the newly signed law reads.

Under RA 11479, acts intended to cause death or serious injury to any person, extensive damage to a government facility, and extensive interference with destruction to critical infrastructure are likewise considered as terror acts.

The law also states that individuals who either use weapons, explosives, and chemical weapons or release dangerous substances causing fire, floods, or explosions are considered terrorists.

Any person who threatens to commit any of the terror acts mentioned in the law will suffer the penalty of 12-year imprisonment.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation in the commission of terrorism, possessing objects connected with the preparation for the commission of terrorism, or collecting or making documents connected with the preparation of terrorism,” according to the law.

RA 11479 notes that people who are part of the planning and training for the commission of terrorism will face life imprisonment without the benefit of parole and the benefits provided under RA 10592.

The newly signed law likewise warns that people who propose to commit or join terror acts would be punished by serving a 12-year jail term.

Exemptions

RA 11479 clarifies that advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person or to create a serious risk to public safety are not considered terror acts.

The law also emphasizes that humanitarian acts undertaken by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Philippine Red Cross, and other state-recognized impartial humanitarian partners or organizations in conformity with the International Humanitarian Law are not punishable.

Monitoring suspected terrorists

Under the law, a law enforcement agency or military personnel may, upon written order of the Court of Appeals, “secretly wiretap, overhear and listen to, intercept, screen, read, surveil, record or collect” any private communications, conversation, discussions, data, information, and messages among suspected terrorists.

“Surveillance, interception, and recording of communications between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources, and confidential business correspondence shall not be authorized,” RA 11479 said.

The law also authorizes law enforcement agents or military personnel to ask the Court of Appeals to compel telecommunications and service providers and Internet service providers to produce all customer information and identification records, as well as call and text data records, content, and other cellular metadata of suspected terrorists.

“It shall be unlawful for any person, law enforcement agent or military personnel or any custodian of the tapes, discs, other storage devices recordings, notes, memoranda, summaries, excerpts, and all copies thereof, to remove, delete, expunge, incinerate, shred or destroy in any manner the items enumerated above in whole or in part under any pretext whatsoever,” it said.

Any person who destroys any enumerated items will suffer the penalty of 10-year imprisonment.

Any law enforcement agent or military personnel who conducts surveillance activities without a valid judicial authorization will also be jailed for 10 years.

Designation of terrorist individual, groups

RA 11479 also provides that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) should automatically adopt the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Consolidated List of designated individuals, group of persons, organizations, or associations identified as a terrorist, a terrorist group, or financier of terror organizations.

The ATC, according to the law, may adopt request for designations by other jurisdictions or supranational jurisdictions after a determination that the proposed designee meets the criteria for designation of UNSC Resolution 1373.

“The ATC may designate an individual, groups of persons, organization, or association, whether domestic or foreign, upon finding of probable cause that the individual, groups of persons, organizations, or association commit, or attempt to commit or conspire in the commission of the acts,” the law reads.

No torture, coercion

The law also ensures that the use of torture and other “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” treatment or punishment against detained suspected terrorists is “absolutely prohibited.”

It said anyone who tortures or intimidates suspected terrorists would be penalized.

It added that there should be “due regard” for the welfare of any suspects who are “elderly, pregnant, persons with disability, women, and children,” while they are under investigation, interrogation, or detention.

Serious commitment to fight terrorism

In a press statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the signing of the Anti-Terror Act signifies the government’s “serious” commitment to combat terrorism in the country.

“The fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach to contain terrorist threat. The signing of the aforesaid law demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people,” he said.

Roque made the remarks, as he guaranteed that Duterte, along with his legal team, took time to study the provisions of the law and weigh the concerns of different stakeholders.

“Terrorism, as we often said, strikes anytime and anywhere. It is a crime against the people and humanity,” he said.

RA 11479, which was released on July 3, takes effect 15 days after its complete publication in the Official Gazette or at least two newspapers of general circulation. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)

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