Press Statement
7 July 2020

Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, ‪+639173162831‬
Karapatan Public Information Desk, ‪+639189790580

Karapatan to PH gov’t: Respond to UN experts’ view on susceptibility to abuse of PH terror law

Human rights watchdog Karapatan called on the Philippine government to address and respond to the “very relevant, valid, competent, and independent comments and questions” raised by nine United Nations (UN) Special Procedures on the Anti-Terrorism Act, which the rights group assailed as a “monstrous and draconian piece of legislation that will heavily impact on the human rights situation in the Philippines.”

In a recently published communication to the Philippine government dated June 29, 2020, the UN Special Procedures expressed serious concerns on the Anti-Terrorism Act amid the designation of individuals, civil society, and humanitarian organizations as “terrorists” in the “context of ongoing discrimination directed against religious and other minorities, human rights defenders, and political opponents.” Citing several applicable international human rights law standards including core human rights treaties and obligations — of which the Philippines is a signatory — as well as numerous UN Security Council resolutions on rights obligations on combatting terrorism and violent extremism, the UN experts voiced their apprehension on the newly signed law, which they averred is susceptible to abuse.

“In our view, the [Anti-Terrorism Act] uses a definition of terrorism that is overbroad and vague, making it susceptible to the abuse of numerous rights enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” the UN Special Procedures stated.

The UN experts dissected and analyzed the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, raising the following concerns:

The law empowers a newly-created Anti-Terrorism Council, consisting of members appointed by the executive, with the authority to permit law enforcement and the military to arrest people it designates as “terrorists” without first obtaining a judicial warrant. Individuals suspected of being “terrorists” may then face lengthy detention in custody without due process and remain in unwarranted arrest for up to 24 days without charges;

The law also may have serious and negative effects on the people’s access to humanitarian assistance, which is an indispensable mechanism to protect other fundamental rights including but not limited to the right to life; and

The law also raises additional civil liberties concerns regarding expanded surveillance that could curtail freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

The UN experts who sent the said communications are Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Vice Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Elina Steinerte, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Joseph Cannataci, and Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said “there is great cynicism on the assurances of principal authors and movers of the said legislation on its supposed human rights safeguards because of the ambiguity of the letter of the law itself, the notoriety of the would-be implementers of the law, and the prevalent State policies that result in political repression, suppression of dissent and civil liberties, and rampant impunity in the country.”

“The recent statements of would-be vice chairperson of the Anti-Terrorism Council and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. — that opponents and critics of the Anti-Terrorism Act are supporters of terrorists — are very much disturbing and clearly indicative of the path by which this law will be implemented: that those who voice out contrary opinions to government, including those opposed to this law, may face charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act,” Palabay stated.

“The need for international accountability mechanisms to address the deteriorating situation of human rights in the country is even more imperative with the Anti-Terrorism Act in place. The so-called domestic mechanisms are either not working to address the injustices, or blatantly manipulated to deflect accountability of those in power, or are merely forms of window-dressing, or worse, are used to go after political dissenters and the protesting public. On the ground, various forms of protest are increasingly even more important to resist these fascist policies of the Duterte administration, and we will exhaust all available means and remedies to hold this regime accountable for its crimes against the Filipino people,” the Karapatan officer concluded. ###

Copy of the communications by UN special procedures may be accessed through this link:


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.