Assalamu alaykum warahmatulahi wabarakatuh.
We, concerned Moro lawyers and law students express our strongest dissent to the Anti-Terror Bill.
Let it be said, we condemn terrorism. As Moros we know its ill effects too well. We have suffered from them. We have seen the destruction of our own homes in Marawi. We have lost loved ones in bombings. We have been forced to flee many times, not only at the ear-shattering sound of gunfires and shelling, but at the faintest foot fall of combat boots and rumbling of tanks. As children, we have learned that silence is safety. As adults, some of us have learned to fear both black flags and fatigue uniforms in equal measure. If there is anybody in this nation who vehemently desires to put an end to terrorism, it is us – Moros.
We condemn terrorism. However, as lawyers, students of the law, and human rights advocates, we likewise know all too well that overzealous desire to capture the enemy, when sanctioned by law that is bereft of any procedural and substantive safeguards to protect the innocent, is just as dangerous to our lives, liberties, and freedoms.
We know too well how an overbroad law leads to varying interpretation.
At the core of the proposed bills Senate Bill (SB) 1083 and House Bill (HB) 6875, is an overly broad definition of terrorism that unduly penalizes activities which are legitimate exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms. We shudder to think how our congregational prayers, khutbahs, and halaqas might be seen as inciting to terrorist acts by oblivious persons in authority. We fear for the safety of the Balik Islam, as they too become immediate suspects upon embracing the religion. We are scared for our youth who may be unsuspectingly going about their business in school or work, only to find out eventually (or never) that their every step is being monitored by state agents – who now have the legal cover to do so – when their only “crime” is being Muslim. We worry for our communities displaced by conflict who will face more difficulty in accessing aid, as humanitarian organizations may be prevented from extending assistance lest they be suspected of providing material aid to terrorists under Section 12.
We know too well the risks that come with deprivation of liberty.
Section 29 reads “Detention without Judicial Warrant of Arrest”. The title is clear. It allows law enforcers to detain suspects for fourteen (14) calendar days, extendable to another ten (10) calendar days without any charges filed in court. Worse, it removes the penalty of ₱500,000 for every day of wrongful arrest, as provided by the Human Security Act.
In a legal and social environment that already tolerates de facto warrantless arrests against Moros, this law legalizes it. Without any safeguard against unlawful arrests, state agents will not only be authorized but also emboldened to trample on our freedom. Law enforcers need not fear any repercussions if they wrongfully deprive citizens of their liberty.
We demand high standards for law enforcement, one that will actively dispense its own role in the protection of the innocent no matter how differently they look, talk, or worship. We need a law enforcement that is accountable and thorough, not one that will take shortcuts just because it is expedient.
We have seen all too often, the tell-tale signs of sufferings of our clients while in detention which leave marks on both body and spirit. We remember the shaking hands and voices, the fearful eyes of our clients as we talked to them through bars of prison cells.
Section 30, while entitled “Rights of persons under custodial detention” actually dilutes safeguards to constitutionally protected rights of the accused which are statutorily adopted in Republic Act 9745 (Anti-Torture Law) and RA 7438 (Rights of Persons under Custodial Investigation). The bill limits persons authorized to visit a detained person to lawyers, doctors, and family members. This bars the Commission on Human Rights, religious workers, human rights organizations and – quite possibly – concerned lawyer groups from rendering support during this most vulnerable time.
We have seen too often the repercussions of unbridled power and impunity. Section 45 creates the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), a nine-person council all of whom are alter-egos of the President. Section 25 grants the ATC the power to designate who is a terrorist. How this differs from proscription in Sections 26 to 28 is unclear; but mere designation dangerously allows the state to detain a person without judicial warrant. Liberty will be restricted on mere probable cause determined by the ATC, without a probing inquiry from a judge as provided in our Constitution.
We know all too well that the power of the purse could mean life and death. Section 35 grants the ATC the power to authorize the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate, inquire, and examine bank deposits, in addition to its authority to freeze assets, money, and property under Section 36. Aside from change in banking and saving attitudes, repercussions will immediately be felt by the dependents.
Senate Bill No. 1083 and House Bill No. 6875 are unacceptable encroachments on our civil liberties. Assurances that abuse will not happen are not enough. We must craft laws that guard against discriminatory enforcement. We need laws that will demand the best from our kindred in law enforcement.
We support a just, humane law that will combat terrorism, and aid in our efforts toward a more harmonious and peaceful society. We regret that this is not the Anti-Terror Bill.
We reject. ###
Atty. Ayesha Alonto Mambuay
Atty. Abdunasser Badrudin
Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman
Atty. Hanifah D. Bedar
Atty. Bai Ashrafia Alonto Biruar-Mitmug
Atty. Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba
Atty. Mohammad Muktadir A. Estrella
Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli
Atty. Jamal Latiph
Atty. Basher T. Macapado
Atty. Hanna Nazria Macapintal
Atty. Ymil Rjiv DT Matba
Atty. Ras Mitmug
Atty. Rowanie Ambolodto Nakan
Atty. Ben Pakil
Atty. Rashid Vedra Pandi
Atty. Sittie Amirah Pendatun
Atty. Amirah Peñalber
Atty. Alpha Carole Pontanal
Atty. Patrick Marban Velez
Abdulhamid Alawi Jr.
Sittie Namraida L. Ali
Alexine Adia Amira-Labi Bangcola
Mehrab U. Bahri
Mohammad Muariff S. Balang
Ali Pangalian Balindong III
Amir Sirad B. Balindong III
Jamael Usman Batugan
Jamil P. Dalidig
Shajira Azra E. Kasan
Sittie Norhanie Hamdag Lao
Yaneeza Acraman Macapado
Sitty Aisha B. Macarambon
Nabila E. Mohamad
Mardheeya S. Nuruddin
Amal Jayieda A. Panda
Al-Fahad L. Usman
NOTE: This list is not final, and we enjoin fellow lawyers and law students to join the call.
Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli (through Ms. Shebana Alqaseer, 09177250625)