Manila terror law draws criticism

A tough new anti-terrorism law has come into effect in the Philippines.

The Human Security Act allows the government to detain suspects for up to three days without charge, use wiretaps and also seize suspects' assets.

The government in Manila says the law will help it to tackle militant groups, such as Abu Sayyaf.

But critics, including the Roman Catholic Church, fear the law could be used to quell legitimate political dissent in the country.

The Philippines has been fighting against a wide range of insurgent groups for years, including the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf.

The government says the anti-terrorism law will give it a specific weapon to counter extremists, including choking off funds used to finance their attacks.

The government also argues there are adequate safeguards in the law, pointing out the detention period without charge is far shorter than in many other countries, while wiretapping requires a court order.

But critics, including the influential Roman Catholic Church, fear President Gloria Arroyo may be tempted to use the new powers to harass her political rivals.

They also say the law is being pushed through without clear implementing guidelines.

Opponents further worry that rogue elements in the army, accused of killing hundreds of mainly political activists over the past few years, will take the new law as a green light to step up their murderous activities, our correspondent says.

15/07/2007

Bron : BBC News

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