Human Security Act

Human Security Act 101
a.k.a the Anti-Terror Law

The anti-terror law took effect on July 14. Bishops and human rights advocates fear that authorities would use it to crackdown on political enemies; Malacanang claims that the law would protect the people from terror.

What is the Human Security Act?

It is State policy to “protect life, liberty, and property from acts of terrorism, …dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the people, and to make terrorism a crime against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of nations.” HSA is a form of implementation of this policy.

It recognizes that “the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach, comprising political, economic, diplomatic, military, and legal means duly taking into account the (its) root causes.” It recognizes, however, that the State, via the executive government, shall absolutely uphold and protect human rights above the Act. This means that any stipulation of the Act that violates human rights conventions would be declared void.

Definition of Terrorism

Although there is no internationally recognized definition of terrorism, Sec 3 gives illustrative examples of what defines terrorism. A few of these are

1. Article 122 (Piracy in General and Mutiny in the High Seas or in the Philippine Waters);
2. Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection);
3. Article 134-a (Coup d‘Etat), including acts committed by private persons;
4. Republic Act No. 5207, (Atomic Energy Regulatory and Liability Act of 1968);
5. Republic Act No. 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law);
6. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended (Decree Codifying the Laws on Illegal and Unlawful Possession, Manufacture, Dealing in, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunitions or Explosives)

In addition, the law stipulates 3 essential elements in committing the crime:
The commission of 1 or more crimes stated in Sec 3
Sowing and creating 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

Sec 17, on the other hand, says that organizations, associations and groups of persons can be declared as terrorists upon application of the Department of Justice (DOJ) before a competent Regional Trial Court (RTC). The RTC then would give the accused parties due notice and opportunity to be heard.

Surveillance (i.e. wiretapping)

Sec 7 allows for the electronic surveillance of suspects, and interception and recording of communications, provided that a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team conduct these. They may conduct these only after the Court of Appeals granted their written request to bug the individual. After the grant, they are may eavesdrop in conversations between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization, association, or group of persons or of any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Recording of the communication between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business correspondence shall not be authorized.

The subject would be informed of the surveillance or wiretapping if no case is filed against him or her.

Examination of Bank Deposits

Sec 27 judicially authorizes police or law enforcement officials to examine bank deposits, accounts, and records to gather relevant information regarding bank transactions of (1) a person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism, (2) of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization, association, or group of persons, and (3) of a member of such judicially declared and outlawed organization, association, or group of persons provided that it is duly authorized in writing by the anti-terrorism council and ordered by and served with the written order of the Court of Appeals.

The subject would be informed of the examination of bank transactions if no case is filed against him or her.


Sec 18 tells us that once a police or law enforcement official is duly authorized by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) to take custody of a person charged or suspected with terrorism, he/she must delivery the detained persons to the proper judicial authorities within 3 days from the moment they are apprehended and taken into custody, provided that the arrest is a result from the surveillance (Sec 7) and the examination of bank deposits (Sec 27) of the Act.
Until the subject is delivered to the judge, he or she shall be: (Sec 21)

informed, by the police or law enforcement officers the nature and cause of his arrest, as well as in the presence of his legal counsel
allowed to communicate freely with his legal counsel without restriction
allowed to communicate freely and privately without restrictions with the members of his family or with his nearest relatives and to be visited by them
allowed freely to avail of the service of a physician or physicians of choice

Sec 23 requires the police or other law enforcement custodial unit in whose care and control the subject is placed under to keep a securely and orderly maintained official logbook. It shall be a public document that keeps tabs on who interacts with the subject, whether it is his lawyers, family members within the civil fourth degree or physician at any time of the day or night without any form of restriction. Among the details written on the book are:

(a) The state of his health and physical condition at the time of his initial admission for custodial detention
(b) the date and time of each removal of the detained person from his cell for interrogation or for any purpose, and the corresponding date and time of his return to his cell;
(d) A summary of the physical and medical findings on the detained person after each of such interrogation
(e) The names and addresses of persons who visit the detained person, as well as the date and time of each of such visits
(f) All other important events bearing on and all relevant details regarding the treatment of the detained person while under custodial arrest and detention.

Sec 24 explicitly stipulates that torture and coercion in investigation and interrogation is not allowed.

When the subject is turned over the judge, the latter shall question and personally observe whether or not the suspect has been subjected to any physical, moral or psychological torture by whom and why. The judge shall then submit a written report of what he/she had observed when the subject was brought before him to the proper court that has jurisdiction over the case of the person thus arrested (Sec 18).

Misuse of the Law

Anyone involved with the surveillance or the observation of bank accounts are naturally not allowed to divulge what transpires in the conversations and the bank transactions. Unless the subject/s are tried and convicted, what goes on in the tapes and bank accounts stay there. There are (lots of) stipulations in the Act that punish specific transgressions against the subject and his “right to privacy”. Moreover, there are sections that say that evidence seized as a result of illegal police actions may not be used against the accused.

Why should I care about the Human Security Act? It’s only for terrorists.
The following statement is direct quoted from the article written by Jose Diokno, Chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

The HSA is so vague that it can be used against just about anyone, including you and me. The law is so sweeping that is can be used to curtain the rights of persons merely suspected of terrorism, even if they have been granted bail because the evidence of their guilt is not strong. And the law is so dangerous that, unless repealed, it would destroy the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and rip apart the very fabric of our democratic system.

Is it really? Think for yourself. You can access the full text of the Human Security Act in