The Department of Justice says it will start reviewing the anti-terrorism bill approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
"So our comments have not yet been requested by the Office of the President. Nonetheless, the DOJ will already start its own review of the bill," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement.
"The DOJ's task is not to interfere with governmental policy but to determine if the provisions of any enrolled bill are in accordance with the Constitution. I would like to believe that we have consistently and objectively discharged this duty," he said.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte certified as “urgent” House Bill 6875 which will give the anti-terrorism law more power “to address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare”.
Under the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, persons who voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, may be jailed for 12 years.
Suspects can be detained for up to 24 days without a warrant of arrest.
A 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists can also be conducted by the police or the military, with a 30-day extension.
Critics of the bill have taken to social media, as well as to the streets to protest the bill, saying it threatens human rights and may be used against the government’s political opponents.
Very worrying," said Ravina Shamdasani, of the United Nations Human Rights office. She said the legislation defines terrorism broadly and allows officials to designate people as terrorists in provisions that "may violate the principle of legality under international law."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other government officials say the bill contains penalties for abuse and won't be used against government opponents.