Anti-Terrorism Act takes effect Saturday

By Eimor Santos, CNN Philippines

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Act will take effect on Saturday, the Department of Justice clarified amid confusion on the start date of its implementation.

In a statement on Friday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained that since the law was published on July 3, it will take effect on July 18, or 15 days after.

He apologized for the confusion caused by an earlier statement. “We rectify our earlier statement that the law will take effect after the 15th day, or on July 19. Our apologies.”

Guevarra stressed that the law can take effect even without the implementing rules and regulations since some provisions are “self-executing.”

“But there are provisions where operational details need to be spelled out or standards clearly defined in the IRR for a proper implementation of the law,” Guevarra said.

The Anti-Terrorism Council, chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, has started meeting in small groups to draft the IRR, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. told CNN Philippines.

“IRR will come in 90 days,” Esperon said in a text message.

As early as July 4, Esperon said the council was ready to convene to craft the IRR which will be submitted to Congress.

Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 mandates the creation of a joint congressional oversight committee which can summon the council and law enforcement officers over the implementation of the measure.

Several petitions have been filed at the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law since President Rodrigo Duterte signed it on July 3.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said he filed a comment on Friday on the eight petitions consolidated by the high court, where he defended the validity of the measure.

“All their petitions allege the unconstitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act, relying primarily on baseless allegations of vagueness of the law, unjustified fears of abuse, and imagined conjectures,” Calida, the government’s top lawyer, said in a statement.

He stressed the need for a strong anti-terrorism law to ensure national security and protect Filipinos against terrorist acts.

Critics say the law relaxes safeguards on human rights and is open to abuse, but lawmakers who authored and sponsored the measure deny this.

Duterte also said law-abiding citizens should not fear the newly-signed measure, but stressed that communist rebels should be considered as terrorists because “I finally declared them to be one.”

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, principal sponsor and author of the Anti-Terrorism Act, said this may be a “personal opinion” of the President, but the government’s petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army as terrorists will have to be tried and approved by the Court of Appeals.

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