Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA465 2007-02-09 08:30 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #0465/01 0400830
O 090830Z FEB 07



E.O. 12958: N/A

¶1. (U) Summary. Passage of long-awaited counterterrorism
legislation moved closer to adoption with the approval on February 8
by a bicameral committee of an agreed-upon version. The lower House
will have to vote on it when Congress resumes in June, and the
President, who expressed delight at this development, is expected to
sign it into law. The bill would significantly improve the
Philippine government’s arsenal of tools against terrorists –
notably, modernized electronic surveillance provisions – and provide
stiff penalties, while providing numerous human rights protections
but its eventual enforcement likely will face problems. End

¶2. (U) In a surprising move, a bicameral committee of the two
Houses of Congress on February 8 adopted in full the version of a
counterterrorism bill that the Senate had approved only on February
7 after years of deliberation. (The House had passed a very
different version in April 2006.) Despite efforts by House Speaker
Jose de Venecia, on behalf of the government; to bring the bicameral
version to a vote of approval by the lower house on the same
evening, a lack of quorum prevented its final adoption before
Congress adjourned for the beginning of the May 14 campaign season.
Congress will resume on June 4. Congressional and government
sources predict that the lower House will quickly approve the
bicameral bill and send the new law to President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo for signature. The Philippine government had long certified
this as “priority” legislation.

New tools

¶3. (U) The 62-section, 49 page legislation — now entitled the
“Human Security Act of 2007” — has many notable new tools to aid in
Philippine counterterrorism efforts, including:
— creation of an Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to replace the
current Anti-Terrorism Task Force; its members will be the Executive
Secretary, the National Security Advisor, and the Secretaries of

Foreign Affairs, Justice, National Defense, Finance, and the
Interior and Local Government. The National Intelligence
Coordinating Agency will act as the Secretariat;
— authorization of electronic surveillance upon a written order of
the Court of Appeals upon the request of the ATC (updating the
long-outdated Anti-Wiretapping Act of 1965);
— authorization to examine bank deposits, accounts, and records,
upon written orders from the Court of Appeals upon request from the
— seizure and sequestration of assets of terrorist suspects;
— use of continuous trials on a daily basis to ensure speedy trial
in terrorism cases;


¶4. (U) To satisfy long-standing human rights concerns expressed in
both Houses, the draft legislation also has many significant
protections, including:
— an affirmation that the “exercise of the constitutionally
recognized powers of the executive department of the government
shall not prejudice respect for human rights which shall be absolute
and protected at all times;”
— communications between lawyers and clients, doctors and
patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business
correspondence will not be subject to electronic or other
— Court of Appeal orders for electronic surveillance are only
valid for thirty days, subject to only one additional thirty day
— if, during this period, no case is filed, police must notify the
— officials may not “delete, expunge, incinerate, shred, or
destroy” records based on electronic surveillance or bank records;
— suspects may be held only for three days (reduced from 15 days
in earlier drafts) without being charged;
— before detention, law enforcement officials must present a
suspect to a judge to verify that the suspect has not been
“subjected to any physical, moral, or psychological torture;”
— detainees must be informed of the nature and cause of arrest,
and retain rights to remain silent and to have competent and
independent counsel, preferably of their choice;
— the government must ensure free legal assistance if the
detainees cannot afford to hire counsel;
— an absolute ban on torture or coercion in investigation and
interrogation, with any testimony that results from such practices
“absolutely not admissible and usable as evidence;”
— government must pay damages of 500,000 pesos per day that
suspects have been “detained or deprived of liberty or arrested
without a warrant,” if acquitted;
— government must pay damages of 500,000 pesos per day if assets
were seized if acquitted or if charges are dismissed;
— the requirement of proof of “probable cause” before examination
of bank records;

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— the Commission on Human Rights shall give “highest priority” to
investigate possible violations of civil and political rights in the
implementation of this act, and to prosecute responsible public
officials and law enforcers.


¶5. (U) After years of debate, the two Houses have agreed on a
definition of terrorism that cites violations of relevant articles
of the Revised Penal Code and related Presidential Decrees and other
laws in order to sow and create a “condition of widespread and
extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce
the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

¶6. (U) The legislation also clarifies that, while crimes under
this act are primarily related to those committed within the
territorial “domain, interior waters, maritime zone, and airspace of
the Philippines,” it will also apply to acts:
— planned by persons physically outside the territorial limits of
the Philippines in order to take place inside the territorial limits
or on board Philippine ships or aircraft;
— committed within Philippine Embassies, consulates, or other
diplomatic premises;
— committed against Philippine citizens or persons of Philippine
descent even outside the Philippines, when their citizenship or
ethnicity was a factor;
— committed directly against the Philippine government even if
outside the Philippines.


¶7. (U) Those found guilty under the act for commission of an act
of terrorism are subject to 40 years imprisonment, without parole.
Conspirators are also subject to 40 years imprisonment, but with the
possibility of parole. Those who merely cooperate in the commission
or conspiracy of terrorism are subject to 17-20 years imprisonment.
Accessories – excluding spouses, parents, children, siblings, or
other close relatives – may be subject to 10-12 years imprisonment.

¶8. (U) Officials who subject suspects to torture in any form will
face penalties of 12-20 years imprisonment. Officials who allow
those convicted under this act to escape will face penalties of
between 12-20 years imprisonment, or 6-12 years for escapes by


¶9. (U) The two Houses will appoint five members each to a Joint
Oversight Committee, which will provide semi-annual reports to both
Houses. Courts dealing with terrorism cases must report every six
months to Congress and the President on the status of cases.

President’s reaction

¶10. (U) President Arroyo described the vote of the bicameral
conference as “an institutional landmark of the 13th Congress at a
time when the world looks upon the Philippines as a strong global
player in the fight against terror.” She added that “all
peace-loving Filipinos are looking forward to its quick approval …
and I will wait for it, pen in hand, at my desk.” She commented
that, as “we have more legal teeth in this fight, we shall continue
to sharpen the intelligence and operational capabilities of the
Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP), modernize and
further professionalize them, and broaden the domestic and
international alliances that will give us the edge to win and


¶11. (U) While Congress has not yet formally enacted this Act into
law, this dramatic development brings the Philippines very close to
a long-desired goal of adopting more effective counterterrorism
legislation, with the likelihood of formal adoption in June.
Emboffs will meet with legislators and relevant law enforcement
officials over the next weeks to seek their views on the
effectiveness – and challenges – of these draft provisions. Notably
missing is the ability of law enforcers to access telephone records
through pen registers and trap-and-trace mechanisms, a feature that
was present in most earlier drafts. Like many good pieces of
legislation in the Philippines, enforcement will likely prove
problematic. The specter of compensation in arrest cases that do
not result in conviction may be particularly discouraging to law
enforcement authorities, whose budgets would be directly affected.




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