Proposed amendments to anti-terror law will place PH under martial law

“Amending the Human Security Act of 2007, or the anti-terror law, in accordance to the Duterte government’s agenda will place the entire Philippines under martial law. This as much was admitted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, when he said that they can do away with martial law in Mindanao if Congress will enact the proposed measures,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, as the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs endorsed its committee report to the Senate plenary yesterday.

Karapatan said that like the proposed measures in the House of Representatives, the Senate version of the amendments to Republic Act 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007, will enable the wholesale violation of people’s civil liberties and political rights, including the right to freedom of expression and to due process, the right to hold political beliefs and to legitimate exercise of dissent, the right against illegal or arbitrary arrests and detention, the right to privacy, among others. “Only the voices of militarists in government were heard in the Senate’s deliberations and there were no meaningful and substantial consultations held to address the ramifications of this measure which can have even more dire implications on the exercise of people’s rights. We have to thoroughly emphasize how dangerous this amended law will be for all Filipinos,” Palabay said.

Provisions of the Senate version include the denial of due process rights to individuals and groups in the proscription process and in the course of conducting surveillance, and giving unchecked powers to State authorities to arbitrarily arrest and detain persons and thus providing opportunities for them to inflict torture and other cruel forms of treatment. 

Palabay cited that under the amended HSA, state forces can legally detain suspected individuals for 14 days, making them vulnerable to all forms of rights violations. Provisions to exact accountability form state forces, such as the PhP500,000 per day penalty to be paid by authorities for individuals later acquitted, have also been surreptitiously removed.

“Mere suspicion against persons and communities, even without any iota of evidence, can be used as basis by hyper-paranoid State forces. These proposed measures will give full military powers to the most notorious human rights violators such as the police, military and intelligence agents. As it is, the Human Security Act is already being used against human rights defenders and communities exercising their legitimate right to defend land and ancestral domains, their right to freedom of speech, the right to demand better working conditions and living wages, the right to social services and many other political, civil, economic and socio-cultural rights,” Palabay added.

On January 30, 2019, trumped up complaints, including alleged violations on RA 9372, were filed against indigenous peoples’ leader Jomorito Guaynon, peasant leader Ireneo Udarbe and four members of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA) at the Office of the Prosecutor at Cagayan de Oro City. All six are currently detained at Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City.

Guaynon and Udarbe were abducted on January 28, and later surfaced at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office of the Philippine National Police at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City. Aside from violations on RA 9372, complaints of rebellion, illegal possession of firearms and explosives and election gun ban violations were filed against Guaynon and Udarbe. The two high profile activists, who attended and organized consultations and dialogues with the military and the Commission on Human Rights to raise concerns on rights violations by the military on peasant and indigenous communities in Region 10, vehemently denied the allegations against them. They averred that the guns, grenades and ammunitions allegedly gathered from their persons were planted by the CIDG and the 4th Infantry Division Military Intelligence Battalion.

Two days later, on January 30, elements of the CIDG, 4th Military Intelligence Battalion, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), 58th Infantry Battalion, 403rd Brigade, among other police and military units, raided the office of MOFA in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. Police and military agents physically assaulted and threatened peasant leaders Gerry Basahon, Mylene Coleta and her sister Marivic, and Gerald Basahon, who were staying at the said office with a 1-year old baby, a 2-year old child, and a 16-year old teen. Guns and grenades were planted throughout the office and in bags of the said individuals.

Karapatan also cited the recent killing of peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao as a consequence of the Duterte government’s implication of Malayao’s name in a proscription case filed by the Department of Justice in February 23, 2018. Malayao is among the 657 individuals cited as “officers and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army” in the DOJ petition. In a February 1, 2019 ruling of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19, Malayao and the more than 600 personalities as non-parties to the amended petition filed by the DOJ on January 3, 2019.

“However, this apparently did not deter State forces and their death squads in targeting individuals like Malayao, as they are still considered as ‘suspected terrorists’ by the NICA, the DOJ’s unintelligent source of information in filing the proscription case. The HSA has given State forces the license to kill, to arbitrarily detain persons on spurious and unsubstantiated charges, to vilify and make individuals and groups vulnerable to gross human rights violations. The proposed amendments will definitely expand these military powers and will bring the country back to open martial rule. With the Duterte regime’s propensity for all-out abuses and impunity, the amended anti-terror law will further justify the unabated trampling of our civil and political rights,” Palabay said.

“We call on all civil libertarians, human rights activists, peace advocates and communities to oppose the HSA and the proposed amendments that will enable the Duterte government to establish nationwide martial law,” Karapatan concluded.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580