CITING the grave terrorism situation in the Philippines, the government was forced to immediately pass the terrorism bill into law to be able to combat the problem and prosecute those involved in the act.
The Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva led by Ambassador Evan Garcia, during the forum “Understanding the Human Rights Perspective of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” last Sept. 3 said “The siege of Marawi City in the southern Philippines by ISIS-affiliated terrorists in 2017 laid the historic Muslim city in ruins, forcibly displaced more than 230,000 residents, and damaged billions of pesos of private and public property, was considered as the longest urban battle in the contemporary history of the Philippines.”
“The recent twin attacks in Jolo, Sulu in Southern Philippines is yet another reminder of the reality of terrorist threats in the country even amid the pandemic,” he added.
Garcia noted that “acts of terror” perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army similarly continued amid the pandemic.
“The Global Terrorism Index identified this group as the biggest perpetrator of terroristic activities in the country responsible for over 107 deaths, 179 terror-related incidents and attacks against police, military, and government targets in 39 provinces, in 2018 alone,” he said.
In a briefing that was joined by around 200 participants, including representatives from 39 embassies and six UN agencies and other international organizations, Garcia said the provisions in the new measure were not crafted in a vacuum and is anchored on the lessons learned from the implementation of the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions concerning counter-terrorism.
“The adoption of the law conformably with these safeguards and security guidelines makes the Philippines compliant with its obligations under international law and complements the security requirements in preventing and prosecuting terrorists in our jurisdiction,” he said.
Garcia added that Manila has to fix its loopholes or at least strengthen its laws by October 2020 to evade possible “graylisting” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for non-compliance with its recommendations.
Garcia noted that earning the FATF’s tag could “negatively affect” critical sectors like remittances from overseas Filipino workers as well as international financial transactions.
Meanwhile, he said talks on the new measure still boils down to the victims of terrorism and of their families.
“Our efforts, including the strengthening of legal frameworks and their implementation, must similarly seek to uphold the primacy of the human rights of the victims and their families, ensure accountability, and prevent a recurrence,” he added.