President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the immediate enactment of the controversial Philippine Anti-Terror Bill or Senate Bill 1083, which seeks to strengthen the government’s anti-terrorism policies.

Duterte, in a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said the prompt passage of the bill would “address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to inadequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Monday said the bill “erodes human rights and institutionalizes impunity,” as it “legalizes red-tagging of organizations on suspicion of engaging in abstrusely termed ‘terrorist acts.'”

“Thus, it essentially renders nugatory our freedom of association,” NUPL said in a statement.

“On this note, one cannot deny that this bill diminishes the role of the judiciary into a mere stamp pad of legality and an instrument to the institutionalization of shortcuts, circumventions and even validation of outright violations and abuses. With the courts effectively being transformed to permanent structures of impunity under this bill, instead of a being a force to balance the scales of justice, where can victims now seek redress for the wrongs done against them?” it said.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) has also expressed alarm over the “Terror Bill,” saying the government had abused the “terrorism” label and used it to silence critics and infringe upon rights.

It also said the bill would “negate” human rights such as freedom of the press and of expression.

The bill, which will amend the Human Security Act of 2007, would allow the Anti-Terror Council to order the arrest of an individual or a group deemed to be terrorist, even without warrant. John Ezekiel J. Hirro