Philippine president signs widely opposed anti-terror law

Opponents of the Anti-Terrorism Act say they will question the constitutionality of the law in the Supreme Court. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Philippine president signs widely opposed anti-terror law

  • President Rodrigo Duterte signs the Anti-Terrorism Act after weighing the concerns of different groups
  • Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other security officials have played down fears the law could be misused

MANILA: The Philippine president on Friday signed a widely opposed anti-terror law which critics fear could be used against human rights defenders and to muzzle dissent.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act after weighing the concerns of different groups, demonstrating the government’s commitment to stamping out terrorism, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Opponents say they will question the constitutionality of the law in the Supreme Court.
The law, which Congress sent to the president for signing last month, allows the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without charge and empowers a government anti-terrorism council to designate suspects or groups as suspected terrorists who could then be subject to arrest and surveillance.
Military officials have cited the threat of terrorism, including from Daesh group-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines, as a reason why the country needs the law. It replaces a 2007 anti-terror law called the Human Security Act that has been rarely used, largely because law enforcers can be fined 500,000 pesos ($9,800) for each day they wrongfully detain a terrorism suspect.
Lawmakers removed such safeguards in the new legislation, which increases the number of days that suspects can be detained without warrants from three to 24.
Opposition to the law has been mounting, with Catholic bishops saying the definition of terrorism under the law is so broad it could threaten legitimate dissent and civil liberties. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the largest group of lawyers in the country, and UN rights officials have also expressed concern along with nationalist groups and media watchdogs.
Opponents said the law violates the constitution, which restricts detention beyond three days without specific charges.
“This administration has effectively crafted a new weapon to brand and hound any perceived enemies of the state,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director. “In the prevailing climate of impunity, a law so vague on the definition of ‘terrorism’ can only worsen attacks against human rights defenders.”
“Under Duterte’s presidency, even the mildest government critics can be labeled terrorists,” Bequelin said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other security officials have played down fears the law could be misused, saying it won’t be used against government opponents.
The legislation states that terrorism excludes “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”
For years, government troops have been battling Abu Sayyaf militants who have been listed as terrorists by both the United States and the Philippines for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in the restive south.
In 2017, hundreds of militants affiliated with the Daesh group laid siege to Marawi city in the south. Troops quelled the siege after five months in a massive offensive backed by the United States and Australia that left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly militants, and the mosque-studded city in ruins.


France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

Updated 56 min 6 sec ago

France backs calls for EU sanctions on Turkey

  • Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a ‘double standard’ by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members

JEDDAH: France on Friday backed Cyprus’ calls for the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Turkey if the Turkish government won’t suspend its search for energy reserves in eastern Mediterranean waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive economic rights.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said sanctions should be among the options the 27-member bloc considers employing if Turkey continues to “endanger the security and sovereignty of a member state.”

“But we consider that the union should also be ready to use all the instruments at its disposal, among them one of sanctions, if the situation didn’t evolve positively,” Beaune said after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia.

A European Parliament resolution has called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, said the resolution reflected the views of a democratically elected parliament from across the bloc. “This is not ‘country X against country Y,’ it is the aggregated view of the European Parliament,” he told Arab News.

EU leaders are set to hold a summit in a few days to discuss how to respond to Turkey prospecting in areas of the sea that Greece and Cyprus insist are only theirs to explore.

Turkey triggered a naval stand-off with NATO ally Greece after dispatching a warship-escorted research vessel in a part of the eastern Mediterranean that Greece says is over its continental shelf. Greece deployed its own warship and naval patrols in response.

Greek and Turkish military officers are also holding talks at NATO headquarters to work out ways of ensuring that any standoff at sea doesn’t descend into open conflict.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey’s withdrawal of its survey ship and warship escorts was a positive step, but that Greece needs to make sure Ankara is sincere.

He said a list of sanctions will be put before EU leaders at next week’s summit and whether they’ll be implemented will depend on Turkey’s actions. “I’m hoping that it won’t become necessary to reach that point,” Dendias said.

Cypriot officials insist the EU shouldn’t set a “double standard” by imposing sanctions against Belarus for alleged voter fraud and police brutality while avoiding doing so when Turkey carries on its exploration at the expense of EU members.

Meanwhile, the EU is set to announce sanctions on Monday against three companies from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan which are accused of violating a UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomats told AFP.