New Philippines anti-terror legislation took effect Saturday after approval by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month. It has been widely criticized for giving overreaching powers to the Philippines government, curbing free speech and targeting peaceful dissent. It provides for warrantless detention of suspects for up to 24 days, surveillance for up to 90 days and punishment for an offense as severe as lifetime imprisonment without parole.
On Thursday the Philippine Embassy in Washington wrote a letter to the US Congress affirming the Philippines’ ongoing commitment to human rights and political freedom. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez directed the letter to 45 US legislators who had called on the Philippine government to repeal the law. Citing the ineffectiveness of the Human Security Act of 2007 that was replaced by the new legislation, he said: “The Anti-Terrorism Act aims to plug the loopholes in the Human Security Act by putting in place a more effective legal framework that would enable a criminal justice response to terrorist acts beyond that allowed for by the Revised Penal Code.”