The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a 2007 anti-terror law, which the government sought to bolster a U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida-linked militants but critics fear could muzzle civil liberties.
Left-wing alliance Bayan, one of the groups that sought the repeal of the Human Security Act, said Monday it would appeal last Friday’s ruling. The law rarely has been used since it took effect because law enforcers fear the heavy punishment it includes for mistaken arrests and abuses.
Then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a staunch Asian ally of the U.S. campaign against terrorism, signed the anti-terror law in 2007 to turn her Southeast Asian country — regarded as a breeding ground of Islamic radicals — into a hostile territory for militants.
Arroyo cited terrorist attacks, including the bombing of buses, telecommunications and power lines.
The United States and Australia welcomed the new law, which took effect in July 2007. U.S. and Australian security officials have expressed fears that suspected terror training camps in the southern Philippines could produce militants who could strike anywhere in the world.
But several left-wing groups, legislators and human rights advocates separately petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional, arguing its definition of terrorism was too broad and could cover legitimate dissent like labor strikes, anti-U.S. demonstrations and even daring stunts by Greenpeace activists who barge into ships and power plants.
The law defines terrorism as any of at least 12 violent crimes — including murder, kidnapping, arson, piracy, coup and rebellion — that cause widespread and extraordinary panic and force the government to give in to an unlawful demand.