Philippines president signs controversial anti-terrorism bill into law

[JURIST] Philippines President Gloria Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] on Tuesday signed a rigorous new anti-terror bill into law. Among other provisions, the Human Security Act allows police to detain suspected terrorists for three days without charges, but it also allows victims of unlawful arrest to collect up to 500,000 pesos ($10,350) for each day of wrongful detainment. In addition, the legislation bans the practice of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive]. Arroyo assured [press release] Filipinos that the law will not infringe on civil liberties as it will only "be used against bombers not protesters." Leftist organizations and opposition lawmakers, however, worry that despite amendments, the bill's definition of terrorism is still broad enough to apply to legitimate dissent. Carol Araullo, head of the rights group Bayan [advocacy website], accused [press release] the government of trying "to score brownie points with the U.S. government." Philippines Senator M.A. Madrigal meanwhile issued this statement:

This is a dark day for all Filipinos. This law is a license to kill. Hitler did it. Stalin did it. Now Mrs. Arroyo has done it. With the signing of this draconian law, Mrs. Arroyo has arrogated unto herself the powers of a dictator to punish her enemies by branding them as terrorists.... The UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism has expressed its concerns on how even the Philippines ‘ Commission on Human Rights will be used to detain so called terrorists....Those who have supported and pushed for this law have the blood of the Filipinos in their hands.
Similar legislation was seriously considered in the Philippines a decade ago, but was rejected as being too overreaching and too easily leading to another dictatorship like that of late president Ferdinand Marcos [Wikipedia profile].

The current Human Security Act was first introduced to the House of Representatives last year. It passed the Senate [JURIST report] early last month and was approved by the House [JURIST report] two weeks later. AP has more. The Philippine Star has local coverage.

 

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