The Philippines’ new Anti-Terrorism Law takes effect on Saturday, a day earlier than expected, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said. However, it still lacks an IRR or implementing rules and regulations to guide its enforcement.
The IRR for the Anti-Terrorism Law is still in draft and has to be finished in 90 days, Guevarra told reporters. Like the law itself, the IRR needs to be published before it becomes effective. An IRR is addressed to the government agency that will implement a new law. When the 2018 tax reform law, for example, slashed income tax rates across the board, the Bureau of Internal Revenue needed an IRR to implement it.
Some provisions of the law are “self-executing,” or can be done without an IRR, like the organization of the Anti-Terrorism Council, Guevarra said. However, there are provisions that need to be “clearly defined in the IRR for a proper implementation of the law,” he said. This includes protests, which need to be addressed “more deeply.”
Guevarra said it would be “more prudent for law enforcement agents to await the promulgation of the IRR” when asked if the Anti-Terrorism Law could be implemented without such guidelines. Asked if he relayed this to Interior Sec. Eduardo Ano, who has control over the police, Guevarra said: “Nope. He will probably do it on his own.”
The Anti-Terrorism Law was earlier expected to take effect on July 19, Sunday. A law takes effect 15 days after publication. In this case, the 15 days was counted from July 3, when it was published in the Official Gazette. “We rectify our earlier statement that the law will take effect after the 15th day, or on July19. Our apologies,” he said.
Critics and international rights groups said the Anti-Terrorism Act could be used to crack down on dissent during the coronavirus pandemic. It expands the definition of terrorism and allows authorities to detain suspected terrorists without a warrant for up to 24 days as long as a court is notified. In the run-up to the signing of the law, #JunkTerrorBill trended on Twitter and Facebook.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque defended the measure, adding President Rodrigo Duterte "took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders."
Guevarra was asked if protests are allowed based on “plain reading of the law,” to which he replied: “In principle, protest actions are not covered by the definition of terrorism under Section 4, as long as they are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.”
“As it is, this provision is one that the IRR may have to delve into more deeply,” he said. Protests should allow follow quarantine restrictions, he said.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 supplants the Philippines' first counter-terror legislation, the Human Security Act of 2007, which was passed as security forces battled the Abu Sayyaf bandit group and the communist New People's Army.