On the 3rd of July 2020, President Durterte signed the controversial Anti-Terror Act (ATA) of 2020; it sparked outrage from Human Rights groups for its potential infringement of human rights due to the ATA’s broad definition of a terrorist, its unconstitutional extension of warrantless arrests and violation of freedom of speech. It makes one question what could be the rationale behind the passage of the inhumane ATA amidst the ongoing Pandemic. Shouldn’t the government focus most of their energies towards controlling the pandemic, as it continues to worsen? What’s with the urgency? The passage of ATA alarmed Human Rights groups, as it seems to only strengthen Government power, to oppress and silence dissent by the opposition, harassing those deemed as a terrorist. Along with the recent ABS-CBN Shutdown and continuous legal charges pressed to Rappler’s founder Maria Ressa. One cannot help, but ask why have the ATA now?
It turns out one angle overlooked by most for the passage of the ATA is to avert the country from a “Grey-List” inclusion. This is the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s concern in a statement released last June 2020, stating that the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) in 2019. On the MER, the Philippines is under a 12-month observation period up until June 2021 (originally until February 2021). Due to the lax of laws and gaps found on the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 to combat terrorism and anti-money laundering. It was also reported that the country does not fully comply with certain United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) such as UNSCR 1264 to “prohibit by law incitement to commit terrorist acts” that HSA lacks, and UNSCR 1373 “to stop the flow of funds or assets to terrorists, and to stop the use of such funds or assets”. Based on the statement, as early as 2019, there are already plans to fill in the gaps found in the HSA and AMLA.
This is the concern raised by the AMLC for pushing the passage of the ATA. It is to prevent the Philippines from being included in the “Grey-List” inclusion, which would put the Philippine market in a very critical place in international trade. A “Grey-List” inclusion would further worsen the economy, resulting in a drop of remittances, and limiting our country’s ability to borrow money to stimulate the economy to put us out of a recession. The economy is already burdened by the pandemic as it enters a recession, and for AMLC, it is prudent to pass ATA.
“Consequently, the Philippines’ inclusion in the gray list will result in an additional layer of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions, thereby increasing the cost of doing business; delaying the processing of transactions; and blocking the country’s road to an “A” credit rating,”; AMLC explaining the urgency of ATA.
‘The pandemic is already adversely affecting our economy. It would be prudent to mitigate other risks and avoid problems gray-listing would further bring to our economy,” AMLC said.
Other than the possible infringement of human rights and abuses of the controversial ATA, another question here in mind is whether it was able to address the gaps needed to comply with UNSCRs to avert the “Grey-List” inclusion? This is up to the proper authorities including the UNSC and the intergovernmental FATF to decide.
Despite these, there are also technicalities in the United Nations with regards to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) itself contradicting the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as mentioned by Sen. Panfilo Lacson where it patterned ATA. “They criticize without even reading the bill itself.” He also stated that the members of the UNSC are the ones pushing them for passing ATA. In response to the remarks by UNHCR commissioner Michelle Bachel [PxxxT] that the ATA “Heightens our concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.”
However, there were also claims from researchers from Vera Files that certain sections were thoughtlessly borrowed from the US, UK, Australia, and the EU, stating that some were from repealed decisions.
Lastly, one must also put into consideration some POGOS that continue to operate, which poses a high-risk to Anti-Money laundering as mentioned by AMLA.