IBP says creation of Anti-Terrorism Council is unconstitutional

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Atty. Domingo Cayosa said the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) through the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill defeats the role of the Judiciary to do “checks and balances” under the constitution.

Cayosa told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Ngayon that under the constitution, all three branches of the government are given equal powers. Based on the Philippine Constitution, the Judicial Department is given the power "to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable."

If the council will be created, decision-making on matters like this will not be solely made by the department. This may also result in unwanted arrests of innocent people who are just voicing out their opinion in any mode of platform.

“Sa kamay ng mapang-abusong gobyerno, pwedeng mangyari yon kaya nga sa ating konstitusyon kailangan ng checks and balances. Hindi pwedeng yung law enforcers ang magde-desisyon sino ang pwedeng arestuhin kaya nga binigay yan sa Judiciary,” he said.

[Translation: On the hands of an abusive government that is possible that is why in our constitution there is a need for checks and balances. Law enforcers are not allowed to decide who to arrest that is why it is given to the Judiciary.]

Cayosa said that originally, if a person is suspected to be a terrorist, pieces of evidence will be presented to the Court of Appeals, who will have the final say if the person is a terrorist or not. However, with the council, it will also be given the authority to designate who a terrorist is.

He added that this authority to the council may be perceived as a “signal or excuse for law enforcers to arrest, conduct surveillance, and limit” the person or organization involved without being charged by court or being given the chance to defend himself.

Under Section 45 of Senate Bill 1083, the ATC will implement the law. It shall come up with measures or programs against terrorism in the country. It can also “conduct legal action and to pursue legal and legislative initiatives to counter terrorism, prevent and stem terrorist financing.”

The ATC will be headed by the Executive Secretary, with the National Security Adviser as the vice chairperson. Its members include heads of different departments, and the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) secretariat.

Cayosa also noted that this bill may lead to guilt by association. He said that all members of a terrorist organization may be arrested even if they are not involved in the unlawful act done.

On June 3, the House of Representatives already approved on its third and final reading the controversial bill, and is just now awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte. However, several congressmen are withdrawing their vote due to lack of coordination with senators regarding vague provisions.

Cayosa said IBP already wrote to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. If this will be signed by the President, he said they will bring their concerns to the Supreme Court for action.