The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 – Why it matters

Last February 26, 2020, the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines approved on its third and final reading Senate Bill 1083 also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Once enacted into law, it will repeal the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007. More recently, the House of Representatives adopted the Senate version and has approved the same in just a matter of days following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of its urgency. 

According to proponents, the bill will provide a strong legal backbone to support the government’s criminal justice response to terrorism. The Department of National Defense (DND) expressed its full support of the passage of the law which it says will empower defenders of the state to protect the Filipino people against those who aim to inflict harm. 

Critics are saying that the bill has many questionable provisions and that the timing appears off given the current problems brought about by the pandemic. 

Among the more vocal critics is Senator Francis Pangilinan who expressed concerns that some of the provisions of the bill may impinge on rights and liberty. He also noted that the definition of terrorism under the bill is vague and encompassing, which may allow abuses on the part of errant officials.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said in a statement that the bill “criminalizes acts which have traditionally been considered legitimate exercises of free speech, freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.”

Citing experiences from other countries, Amnesty International Philippines explained that most counter-terrorism initiatives have disproportionately curtailed freedoms of expression and association, liberty and movement as well as the right to privacy. 

Then there are groups who say that the Senate did not do enough consultations with the private sector as they deliberated on the bill. This may be of serious concern to the private sector as there are many terrorist acts directed at businesses especially large multinational corporations.

For the past weeks, we have seen a lot of online discussions and movements on the ground in protest of the bill. In case you have not been paying attention because you feel this is not something that may affect you, we’ve compiled some of the things about the bill that you may want to know.

  • One of the much discussed sections of the bill is the provision on imposing life imprisonment without parole for those who will be found to have proposed, incited, conspired, and participated in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act, including those who provide material support to terrorists. 
  • The bill also penalizes with 12 years of imprisonment, those who will be found to have threatened to commit terrorism, proposed any terrorist acts, or incited others to commit terrorism. This also includes those who will be found to have been accessory in the commission of terrorism. 
  • Likewise, those who will be found to have voluntarily or knowingly joined any organization, association, or group of persons known to be a terrorist group or organization shall be subject to the same penalty of 12 years of imprisonment. 

To read the full text of the bill go to: