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Philippines high court asked to block anti-terror law

[JURIST] Several lawyers' groups and legislators Wednesday filed a challenge against the Human Security Act 2007 [PDF text; press release] with the Supreme Court of the Philippines. The act, signed [JURIST report] in March by President Gloria Arroyo, 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 Arroyo's government to stifle political dissent under the cover of anti-terror operations. Petitioners, who included Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Counsels for the Defense of Liberties [organization websites] and several former senators, asked the court to grant a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the law pending the petition's outcome. The Daily Tribune has more.

Even before the controversial law went into effect [JURIST report], there was substantial opposition to the legislation. In March, United Nations human rights expert Martin Scheinin recommended [JURIST report] that the act be amended or repealed. In July, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged the Filipino government [JURIST report] to revisit the act, saying that "many voices are apprehensive" about the anti-terror legislation. In response to criticism, Filipino presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said that the law had already undergone "exhaustive debates" in the legislature [JURIST report]. The government also announced plans for 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."

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