DOJ official: Law enforcers to train on anti-terrorism law to avoid ‘different interpretation’

( – October 21, 2020 – 4:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Justice official said that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the acts it holds as punishable must be made very clear to law enforcers.

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay, spokesperson of the Anti-Terrorism Council, said that he believes that law enforcement agents must undergo a seminar on the provisions of the law.

“Because although it specifically refers to terrorism, it should be clear because others may have different interpretation,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He added that when the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations were being drafted, “we have a very clear concept of what a terrorist is.”

“I would like to hope that we can disseminate this concept to law enforcement agencies, and to whoever will be implementing this,” he added.

‘Wholesale proscription’ petition

Many of the 37 petitioners against the law ran to the Supreme Court and assailed the anti-terrorism law for being vague and overbroad that it would give State forces—who history of red-tagging does not inspire confidence for fairness—unbridled discretion for its implementation.

Even the DOJ was accused of red-tagging after it admitted that they have not verified the more than 600 names in its petition for proscription filed before the Manila Court.

A petition filed by indigenous peoples, prepared by constitutional lawyer Tony La Viña, raised this in asking the SC to strike down the law for being unconstitutional. Three of the petitioners and the organizations they worked for were red-tagged under the Human Security Act of 2007 and were included in the “wholesale” proscription case.

RELATED: Cheat sheet on the looming legal battle on the anti-terrorism law

Asked about this “wholesale proscription” petition, Sugay replied: “I would like to think that that is the real, that’s a real lesson that we all learned after that episode with the original proscription petition.”

“I hope moving forward we know better,” he said.

The DOJ later trimmed down the list to contain just eight names, but of the more than 600 who were initially named in the petition, at least two were brutally murdered. They are peace consultants Randall Echanis and rights worker Zara Alvarez.  — Kristine Joy Patag

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