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Philippines acts to strengthen
counter-terrorism law

Manila (Philippines), 16 September 2011 - Though Southeast Asia is best known as a top tourist destination and a dynamic region, high-profile terrorist attacks in the past decade have demonstrated a need to develop comprehensive rule of law-based measures for countries there. The Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 was meant to fill this gap in the Philippines, but in its original form this law was little used due to concerns on human rights violations, procedural practicalities, the accountability of law enforcement officials, and the legality of some of its provisions.

To address these issues and make the HSA law a more effective and fair tool in the fight against terrorism, a technical working group under the leadership of the Philippines' Anti-Terrorism Council met recently to amend the HSA. Supported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the group brought together front-line law enforcement officials, legal practitioners, government officials and counter-terrorism experts. Attendees discussed the definition of terrorist offences, the design of practical and accountable investigative techniques, and changes to the HSA to fulfill the Philippines' obligations under international law.

Attendees included the National Security Council, Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Office of Solicitor General, Department of Finance, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and Office of Senator.

The Philippines has ratified the first twelve of the sixteen international counter-terrorism conventions - more than any other country in Southeast Asia. By the end of 2011, it is expected to enact legislation against the financing of terrorism and to amend the HSA. This represents significant progress by the Philippines in strengthening its legal regime in the fight against terrorism.

The UNODC Counter-terrorism Programme assists the Philippines in drafting legislation on extradition and on countering the financing of terrorism. In 2011-2012, it will arrange training for specialized law enforcement and inter-disciplinary collaboration. These activities are designed in close consultation with and to be undertaken in close cooperation with national counterparts, including the Department Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, the National Police, the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Anti-Money Laundering Secretariat.

The support provided by the UNODC is part of its assistance delivery to address the legal and criminal justice dimension of countering terrorism. UNODC has covered terrorism and international cooperation for many years. Since 2003, it has carried out its counter-terrorism assistance work under the lead of its Terrorism Prevention Branch through a Global Project on "Strengthening the Legal Regime Against Terrorism". To strengthen the regional and country focus in its counter-terrorism work, in 2011 UNODC started a sub-programme on "Partnership on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism" for countries in Southeast Asia, under the leadership of the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific.

Programme activities are financed through voluntary contributions provided by donor countries, including Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.