Proposed amendments to Human Security Act violates human rights – progressive groups

Jun. 26, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed amendments to the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 is tantamount to “undeclared but legislated” nationwide martial law, Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago warned on Monday as she denounced the Duterte administration’s “draconian and over-broad counterinsurgency legislation.”

The House Committees on Public Order and Safety and National Defense and Security conducted its second technical working group (TWG) meeting on Monday to consolidate House Bill Nos. 5507 and 7141. The two bills, authored by Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino, Jr., a former company commander of the Philippine Constabulary, seek to amend the country’s anti-terror law.

Elago said, “this new and insidious tactic is to implement nationwide martial law without having to go through the legal requisites of making a formal declaration.”

Elago’s fears stemmed from Espino’s proposed changes in the anti-terror law.

Under Espino’s bill, terrorism would refer to attempts to “compel a government, an international organization or any person or entity to do or to abstain from doing any act”— a definition that is broader than the current law’s. The current law”s definition of terrorism is an act to “coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

Elago said this “over-broad” definition of terrorism “violates civil liberties and puts everyone’s lives and safety in danger.”

‘Deliberate rush’

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao noted that there is a deliberate rush to pass the two amendatory bills. The joint committees promptly formed a TWG after just two hearings that were attended only by representatives of state security forces, none from the human rights community.

Casilao said HB Nos. 5507 and 7141 seek to resurrect the original Anti-Terror Bill (ATB) under the Arroyo administration, which then, members of the Makabayan bloc and its human rights allies have succeeded to chop down some provisions of the bill during the deliberations in the 14th Congress.

The bill was later passed as Republic Act No. 9372 or the HSA, loaded up with protective provisions for the rights of terror suspects and safeguards against official abuse.

Proposed changes

But the two pending bills, Casilao said, mainly seek to remove these safeguards.

According to the bill, conducting surveillance on individuals may also be allowed merely on the “reasonable ground of suspicion on the part of the law enforcement or military personnel,” contrary to the current requirement for authorities to prove “probable cause… based on personal knowledge.”

Espino’s bill also sought the repeal of various provisions safeguarding the rights of detainees, requiring an official custodial logbook, prohibiting torture during investigation and interrogation, and penalizing the violations of these provisions.

Provisions mandating a speedy trial, barring a separate prosecution for a terrorism-related felony, granting damages to persons acquitted of terrorism charges, recording the name and address of informants, defining the role of the Commission on Human Rights, and creating a grievance committee will be removed under Espino’s bill.

Moreover, the bill seeks to extend to 30 working days the period when a person may be detained without an arrest warrant. At present, one may only be detained without arrest warrant for three calendar days.

The bill also states that suspects could be detained without warrant for committing any of the predicate crimes—piracy, rebellion, coup d’etat, murder, kidnapping, crimes involving destruction, arson, hijacking, piracy, trafficking, cybercrime, or violations of the laws against drugs or toxic substances—and not necessarily the crime of terrorism itself, like what the current law states.

Meanwhile, the violations of the HSA would be punishable by life imprisonment and not by death penalty.

Simultaneous with the TWG meeting, progressive groups and other sectors held a protest in front of the House of Representatives urging the people to reject the railroading of amendments to Republic Act 9372.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said they have so far discussed the definition of terms during the second TWG. But she said the public should already be alarmed as the bills could victimize ordinary people.

“Nasa definition of terms pa lang kami pero tinitiyak namin napaka vague ng batas at talagang tatamaan ay ordinaryong mamamayan,” she said.

After conducting TWG meetings, the joint committees will then conduct a hearing to finalize and approve the changes made through a committee report. This committee report will then be scheduled for plenary deliberations and amendments before it can be voted upon for the lower chamber’s approval. (

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