Days before the full implementation of the antiterrorism law, six United Nations experts made public a letter they wrote in October last year asking the Marcos Jr. administration to explain cases of “judicial harassment, office raids and targeted financial sanctions” on rights watchdogs and its “seemingly unchecked powers.”

In the 19-page letter dated 10 October 2023, the UN special rapporteurs sought an explanation for alleged human rights violations carried out by the Marcos administration in pursuit of so-called ‘antiterrorism’ policies, including Republic Act (RA) No. 11479, which is to be fully enforced starting 15 January under guidelines recently approved by the Supreme Court.

They expressed “serious concern about the seemingly broad and unchecked executive powers… particularly the discretion of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate individuals and organizations as ‘terrorist’ and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to adopt targeted financial sanctions thereafter.”

They also cautioned the Marcos Jr. government against using its ‘counterterrorism’ financing oversight powers “in a broad and arbitrary manner,” especially against legal democratic organizations and individuals in complete disregard of the country’s human rights obligations under international law.

The October 10 letter was signed by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, special rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism; Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; José Francisco Cali Tzay, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; and Nazila Ghanea, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

The rapporteurs made the letter public this month apparently after failing to get a response from the government.

The UN rapporteurs earlier warned to have it published through their communications reporting website and include it in their regular report to the UN Human Rights Council if the government failed to respond to their concerns within 60 days.