Why Philippines amending Human Security Act of 2007?

PROPONENTS and supporters of the controversial Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 have explained the need to amend Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2002 and the Mamang Pulis series will run their explanation in the interest of the public over the next five days.

This as the Philippine National Police headed by General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa had joined the multitude who are saying that ‘only terrorists will fear the new anti-terror bill’ as the police leadership aired its full support to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which the House of Representatives adopted without changes.

Here are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Answers about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Q: Why are we amending the Human Security Act of 2007? A: More than a decade ago since the passage of Republic Act 9372, otherwise known as the Human Security Act of 2007, the law remains a dead letter law and severely underutilized.

Q: What is the status of ‘terrorism’ in the Philippines? A: The Global Terrorism Index of 2019 ranked the Philippines as the 9th country most negatively affected by terrorism. We are actually in the top 10 with countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, India, Yemen, Philippines and Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact, our country experienced the highest negative impact from terrorism among states in the Asia Pacific region. While other states across the globe are starting to see a downtrend in the number of deaths due to terrorism, we are included in the top 10 countries with the largest increase in deaths from terrorism for 2016 – 2017.

Q: Who are considered ‘terrorists’ in the Philippines under the Human Security Act of 2007? A: Despite the existence of the Human Security Act in 2007, the Abu Sayaff Group is the only declared terrorist or outlawed organization in the Philippines.  Its proscription as such occurred in 2015.

Q: How many were convicted due to the violation of the Human Security Act of 2007?

A: Despite the real and present threat presented by terrorist organizations, groups, and individuals to the Filipino people, we have had only one (1) conviction for violation of the law. The Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 70 convicted for violation of the Human Security Act of 2007  Nur Supian in November 2018 for recruiting participants in the 2017 Marawi siege. His co-accused Marvin Ahmad, Salip Ismael Abdulla, and Issa Ukkang were, meanwhile, acquitted.

It is a reality in our country that when terrorists are captured, they are oftentimes charged with cases for violations of the Revised Penal Code, or illegal possession of firearms or some other special laws rather than for terrorism. Even the suspects of the Jolo suicide bombings in 2018 faced multiple murder and frustrated murder charges for the deaths and injuries caused by said bombings when it was clearly a terrorist act.

Terrorism is a crime under the Human Security Act of 2007 which describes such acts as causing "widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace". The first group to be officially listed as a terrorist organization under the law is the Abu Sayyaf which, on September 10, 2015 was given the tag by a Basilan court.

According to Gen. Gamboa, the amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 that were introduced in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will update and strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism policies.

“We cannot quantify the loss of lives and property, not to mention the economic impact of a scenario where there is widespread “panic and fear”, should we find ourselves caught in the middle of a terrorist attack with the same magnitude as the 9-11 in New York in 2001, the 7-7 in London in 2005, the Rizal day 2000 in Manila, and the infamous Marawi siege in May 2017,” said the country’s top cop.

Former PNP chief-turned Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ M. Lacson said that the experience of Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa, himself a former PNP chief will justify some of the provisions in the anti-terrorism bill specifically those allowing warrantless arrests and a detention period of up to 14days without charges.

Sen. dela Rosa had said that when he was still the Davao City Police Office chief, they were compelled to release a suspected terrorist as they were in danger of being charged in court with arbitrary detention and the case they will file against the suspect under their custody would be dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

“Months later, Sen. dela Rosa saw a video showing the same suspect they had released beheading a captive,” said Sen. Lacson. Dela Rosa confirmed the incident and said they were indeed forced to free the terrorist knowing they will be accused of violating the 3-day limit on holding a suspected criminal without any charges and fined P500,000 for each day of unlawful detention.

(to be continued)