SC issues writ of amparo in favor of rights groups

Robie de Guzman   •   May 30, 2019   •   1222

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a writ of amparo and habeas data in favor of human rights groups Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines against what they claimed as threats against their lives from government troops.

In a resolution dated May 24 but made public on Thursday, the SC directed President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other officials from Malacañang and the military and police to comment on petition and file a verified return before the Court of Appeals (CA) by June 13.

A writ of amparo is a legal remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is threatened or violated by public officials or private individuals.

A writ of habeas data covers similar threats or violations but by persons who are engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of information or personal data of the aggrieved party.

The high court also directed the CA to hear the petition on June 18 and resolve the case in 10 days after the hearing.

Last May 6, Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines filed the petition, seeking SC’s protection from alleged threats against their members’ lives after they were tagged by the government as alleged fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Several senators laud signing of Anti-Terror Act despite oppositions

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators have lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 despite oppositions coming from different sectors.

“Much credit goes to PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte). With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered the most,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement Friday.

“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president,” he added.

Lacson, one of the principal authors and sponsor of the measure in the Senate, vowed that he would “exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also expressed elation over the enactment of the controversial bill.

“I am glad that the president has sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law!” he said in a message to reporters.

Senator Francis Tolentino also called the signing of the law as “very timely” and “historic” as the nation needed the measure.

“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand [in hand] with economic rejuvenation post COVID-19,” he added.

The new law repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and penalizes those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure allows suspected terrorists to be detained for up to 24 days without warrant. It also authorizes the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets and accounts of individuals or groups tagged as terrorists.

Before it was enacted, the bill was met with widespread opposition from different groups who raised concern over its provisions that could be abused by authorities, stifle dissent and spur human rights violations.

But Sotto said the law has enough safeguards to prevent enforcers from abusing their authority.

“It’s full of safeguards but strong against terrorists. Unlike the old law, it was subject to abuse by the terrorists,” Sotto said.

Lacson has repeatedly defended the measure, saying it has enough protection to ensure the rights of those detained.

Duterte signs Anti-Terrorism bill into law

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the proposed Anti-Terrorism bill, Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the president signed the measure on Friday, July 3.

The Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and penalizes those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

Under the measure, anyone who threatens to commit terrorism, propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism shall mete out a penalty of 12 years of imprisonment.

It also seeks to provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from terrorism threat and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

The measure was signed into law despite intense opposition from several sectors questioning its provisions, particularly the period of detention for suspected terrorists without judicial warrant, saying this may be abused by the authorities.

Roque said the piece of legislation underwent thorough study before it was enacted by the president.

“As we have said, the President, together with his legal team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders,” he said.

“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 added.

Duterte to meet police, military in Zamboanga City – Roque

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will fly to Zamboanga City on Friday to meet with the officials and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the wake of a shooting incident that killed four soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the president will meet separately with members of the police and military to ensure that the shooting incident between cops and soldiers will not happen again.

The commander-in-chief will also try to ease the tensions between the two security forces, and lift the morale of its members following the incident, which, according to Roque had “saddened” the president.

“Andoon po ang president para magbigay ng assurance na makakamit po ang katarungan, kung mayroong nagkasala, mapaparusahan po,” Roque said.

“Andoon po siya para i-lift ang morale ng mga sundalo, ng mga pulis dahil kung may pagkakamali po yan, pwede naman pong iwasto yan at sisiguraduhin po niya na ito na po ang huling insidente na gaya nito sa kaniyang administrasyon,” he added.

On June 29, four soldiers were fatally shot by police officers some meters away from the Jolo police station.

Police said the military officers attempted to escape and opened fire at them while on their way to police station for identity verification. However, the Philippine Army disputed this claim, saying the soldiers did not try to flee and never fired a single shot towards police officers.

The nine police officers involved in the incident, as well as the chief of Jolo police station have been relieved from their posts pending investigation.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said that aside from talking to police and military commanders, Duterte would also like to meet with the nine police officers involved in the incident. He has also ordered for the National Bureau of Investigation to expedite the release of its probe findings.

This is the first time that the president will visit police and military camps in the country since the coronavirus disease pandemic started.

Roque said Duterte insisted on the trip despite the threat of the viral respiratory disease and the Presidential Security Group’s appeal to delay his visit to the camp.

“Di na po mapigilan ang president, kung masusunod po ang PSG, ayaw po siyang palabasin talaga ng Bahay Pangarap,” Roque said.

“Pero sabi ng presidente, ako pa rin ang President at kung mayroon pa ring kinakailangang talagang gawin, gagawin niya so he’s risking his life by going to Zamboanga, pero ganuon po ka-importante ang misyon niya,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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