The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Friday that the Anti-Terror Bill could further regress the torture prevention efforts in the country.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia released the warning in a message during the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
“Considering the already dire situation in jails, the proposed Anti-Terror Act could further regress efforts on torture prevention,” CHR spokesperson de Guia, a lawyer, said in a statement.
“Provisions in the Act that allow arrest of individuals without judicial warrant and prolonged period of detention without charges may endanger the rights of the accused to due process and make them vulnerable to cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment.”
De Guia was referring to the Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Bill that allows the police and military to imprison – without a judicial warrant of arrest or case – the “suspected” terrorists, perpetrators, conspirators, and conspirators to commit terrorism for up to 14 days, which can extend to 10 more days.
Under the Constitution, warrantless detention could only be done in three days under martial law.
“We reiterate our call for the amendment of these provisions that are prone to abuse. As we commemorate this day, let us uphold the ideals of restorative justice. Being deprived of liberty does not deprive an individual of dignity and rights,” de Guia said.
According to De Guia, reports of torture and abuse of detainees and persons accused persist despite the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law in November 2009. The law prohibits and criminalizes torture and other forms of ill-treatment against persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
The spokesperson cited the jails in the country already exceeded their intended capacity, adding this violates the rights and dignity of inmates. The detention facilities did also did not meet the standards of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as well as BJMP’s Manual on Habitat, Water, Sanitation, and Kitchen in Jails.
“Overcrowded jail cells and detention facilities is akin to cruel, degrading, inhuman treatment or punishment. It increases the likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), which places the lives of the old and immunocompromised inmates in peril,” de Guia said.