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Philippines anti-terror law goes into force in face of protests

[JURIST] A controversial new anti-terrorism law took effect in the Philippines Sunday despite the objections of local Roman Catholic bishops [JURIST report], opposition politicians, and activists who mounted small protests across the country marking the occasion. The Human Security Act 2007 [PDF text; press release], signed [JURIST report] in March, authorizes the 72-hour detention of suspects without charge and allows for surveillance, wiretapping and seizure of assets. Critics of the legislation say it could be used by the government of President Gloria Arroyo to stifle political dissent under the cover of anti-terror operations. A petition calling for the Philippines Supreme Court to review the law is expected to be presented later this week, and rights groups are urging the government to suspend the new law until the high court rules or amendments are pushed through Congress.

Filipino presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said last week that the law had already undergone "exhaustive debates" in the legislature [JURIST report] and that delaying its implementation could "embolden terrorists." The government plans a "massive public information and advocacy campaign" [press release] to accompany implementation and highlight "the existence of terror cells in the region and throughout the world." AFP has more. The Philippine Daily Inquirer has local coverage.

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