A proposed new law regulating public assembly adopted by the Philippine House of Representatives would allow for unlawful restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, the ICJ said today.
On 5 February 2018, the House of Representatives passed on third reading House Bill 6834, which proposes to repeal the Public Assembly Act of 1985.
The law would prohibit persons below the age of 15 from organizing a public assembly and would subject participants or organizers to potential criminal liability for holding a peaceful assembly without the approval of local executives.
“This legislation deceives us into thinking that there is no more need to obtain prior permission to holding a public assembly,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.
“But in effect, organizers will still need to secure the approval of the local executive before holding a public assembly,” she added.
The proposed law states that any person or group intending to organize a public assembly will only need to serve notice to the city or municipal mayor at least three days prior to the assembly without having to secure a permit.
However, at the same time it prohibits the “holding of a public assembly at a time and place other than that approved by the city or municipal mayor.”
“The proposed law does not improve on the old one. It now increases the penalty for holding a public assembly without approval of local authorities to six (6) years,” Emerlynne Gil said.
“The law is also silent as to who may be penalized. Hence, the ICJ fears that organizers and participants alike could be held liable,” she added.
Under international standards, freedom of people to assemble should generally not require prior permission.
The law would also contravene the rights of children that are protected under the Philippines’ legal obligations.
“The provision incorporates into law the arcane and discredited attitude that ‘children should be seen but not be heard’,” said Emerlynne Gil.
“If children are prohibited from organizing a peaceful assembly, this prevents them from exercising their right to impart information freely,” she added.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children must be guaranteed the right to freedom of assembly.
The bill now goes to the Philippine Senate for its consideration.
The ICJ calls on lawmakers in the Philippines not to adopt the proposed law in its current form.
Any new legislation should conform to international standards, including on the right to freedom of assembly without prior permission and the rights of children to assemble freely, the ICJ adds.
Emerlynne Gil, Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, tel. no. +662 619 8477 (ext. 206); e: emerlynne.gil(a)icj.org
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