New procedural rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act

On January 1, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a set of procedural rules governing all petitions and applications in relation with the problematic Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020; the rules came into force on January 15.

The new “Rules on the ATA of 2020 and Related Laws” stipulate, among other things, that after a person has been designated as a suspected “terrorist,” they can file a petition for “certiorari” (i.e., to review grave abuse of discretion) with the SC to challenge the allegation. Nevertheless, the broad definition of “terrorism” under Section 4 of the Act remained unchanged.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) endorsed the new rules on the ATA, but also emphasized that they “cannot address, much less cure, the fundamental flaws of the law which [they] continue to assail as perilous to civil liberties.”

Kristina Conti, Secretary General of the NUPL, further explained that the procedural rules issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) “only elaborated on delisting, based on mistaken identity, change of circumstances, and the like” when a petition for “certiorari” is filed within a 20-day period. She emphasized that such remedies are options that can be used after something has already happened. According to Conti, protective measures to prevent abuses from occurring in the first place are still lacking.

The NUPL also criticized the fact that the procedural rules would not automatically lift the orders for the preventive freezing of funds of persons or groups suspected of financing terrorism after 20 days. In the past, activists have repeatedly been targeted by the government for suspected money laundering.

In this context, six UN Special Rapporteurs also published recommendations to the Philippine government in a 19-page letter on October 10, 2023. In the letter, they asked the government to explain, among others, cases of “judicial harassment, office raids and targeted financial sanctions” against human rights defenders. In addition, they called on the government to curb the “seemingly broad and unchecked executive powers” of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in the prosecution of human rights defenders. When the UN Special Rapporteurs received no response to their letter, they made it public in January 2024.


Photo © Raffy Lerma

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