On 29 June 2020, seven other Special Procedures mandate holders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and I sent a letter to the Government of the Philippines on the Anti-Terrorism Act 2020, raising serious concerns regarding a number of serious negative human rights implications of the legislation, pending at the time. This communication is now public.
Our concerns in relation to the Anti-Terrorism Act included, among other issues:
Its use of an overly broad and vague definition of terrorism, falling short of international standards and violating the principle of legal certainty, with potentially extremely serious repurcussions for the grounding of human rights in the country
The potential for due process to be bypassed on the basis of the designation of individuals as 'terrorists' under the definition in the Act, with this to be done by the newly-created Anti-Terrorism Council, controlled by the Executive
Expanded surveillance threatening the right to privacy and freedom of expression
Limitations placed on the scope of humanitarian action and assistance
Our concerns in detail can be found in the complete communication, available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25384.
A response by the Government was received on 27 August 2020 and is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=35537
In its response, the Government confirmed that the Act had been signed into law on 3 July 2020. They cited UN Security Council resolution 1624, which calls upon States to adopt such measures as may be necessary and appropriate and in accordance with their obligations under international law to prohibit and prevent terrorist acts by law.
The Government noted that, as of 26 August 2020, 28 petitions challenging the Act had been received. It claimed there was no reason to consider the definition of terrorism in the Act overly broad or vague, and argued that the “real necessities of abating terrorism” justified the Act's provision for detention without judicial warrant (section 29 of the Act).