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Philippines – Southeast Asia Security Laws

The Constitution (1987) is the fundamental law of the land in the Philippines. It establishes the structure, policies, roles and duties of the Philippines’ government. It contains the Bill of Rights (article III), and sets out the State’s obligations to promote and uphold social justice and human rights (article XIII). Article II, section 2 of the Constitution provides that “generally accepted principles of international law” are “part of the law of the land.” Section 18 of the Constitution lays out the procedure how the President, as Commander-in-Chief, may call for the suspension of the write of habeas corpus of declare any part of the Philippines under martial law. Section 23(2) gives Congress, in times of war or other national emergency, the power to authorize the President to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy.

The Criminal Procedure Code (2000) contains all the rules of court on civil and criminal procedures. The rights of the accused are listed in Rule 115 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Revised Penal Code (An Act Revising the Penal Code and other Penal Laws No. 3815, December 8, 1930) (RPC) contains many of the Philippines’ crimes, including national security-related crimes, such as: treason (articles 114 to 116), piracy and mutiny on the high seas (articles 122 to 123), sedition (articles 139 to 142), illegal assemblies and associations (articles 146 to 147), and unlawful means of publication and unlawful utterances (article 154).

In the past decade, the Philippines adopted two laws that are primarily aimed to counter terrorism: the Human Security Act (2007) and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (2012).

The Human Security Act defines the crime of terrorism as the commission of an act defined under specific provisions in the Revised Penal Code and other special laws to sow and create widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand. A Supreme Court challenge to the HSA, Southern Hemisphere Engagement Network, Inc., et. al. v. the Anti-Terrorism Council, et. al., was dismissed for lack of standing. In its 2012 conclusion to the Philippines’ fourth periodic review, the Human Rights Committee recommended the Philippines ensure the HSA defines terrorist crimes with enough precision to allow persons to regulate their conduct.

The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (2012) defines the crime “financing terrorism” as possessing, providing, collecting, or using property or funds with the unlawful and willful intention that they be used, in full or in part, to carry out or facilitate the commission of any terrorist act by a terrorist organization, association or group, or by an individual terrorist (section 4). It incorporates the definition under the Human Security Act of what constitute “terrorist acts” (section 3(j)). The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has the authority to investigate allegations of terrorist financing (section 10).

Other penal laws related to national security are the Anti-Piracy and Anti-Highway Robbery Law (1974); the Act prohibiting certain acts inimical to civil aviation, and for other purposes – Republic Act No. 6235; and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (2001).

The Act Defining and Penalizing Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance – Republic Act No. 10353 (2012) sets out the State’s policy on enforced disappearances (section 2) and defines enforced or involuntary disappearance (section 3(b)). It establishes the detainee’s right of access to communication (section 6) and places numerous duties, as well as criminal and civil liabilities, on private citizens and government officials in order to prevent enforced disappearances.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act (2012) lists down all the acts that constitute the offense of cybercrime (section 4). Several groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, Philippine Bar Association, etc. filed petitions before the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the law, claiming that it violates provisions in the Philippine Constitution. On 18 February 2014, the Supreme Court released a decision that declared unconstitutional the following provisions in the law:

  1. a. Section 4(c)(3), which penalizes the posting of unsolicited commercial communications;
  2. b. Section 12, which authorizes the collection or recording of traffic data in real time; and
  3. c. Section 19, which authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to suspected Computer Data.