By Leandro Anton M. Castro
The interaction between counter-terrorism law and international humanitarian law has long been the subject of extensive legal discourse. Concomitant issues include whether international humanitarian law applies in the context of terrorism, the determination of which legal regime applies and how to reconcile them in particular contexts, among others. One of the most contentious topics in the area is the prohibition of the provision of material support to terrorist individuals or organizations and its conflict with rights and obligations provided by international humanitarian law. The most common remedy to such conflict is the integration of humanitarian exemptions in counter-terrorism legislation. The Philippines is no stranger to these issues having included both a prohibition against the provision of material support to terrorists and a humanitarian exemption the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, its latest counter-terrorism measure.
This Article analyses the material support provision and the humanitarian exemption in the Anti- Terrorism Act of 2020. More particularly, the Article tackles how the material support provision puts humanitarian organisations at risk of criminal prosecution and the inadequacy of the humanitarian exemption in the law. A problematic aspect of the Philippine exemption is the requirement of state-recognition which appears stricter than the standards provided by international humanitarian law.
The Article also endeavours to confront the challenge of balancing the demands of combatting terrorism and the needs of the humanitarian sector and their beneficiaries. The Article provides a comparative analysis of humanitarian exemptions in various jurisdictions and goes on to recommend the improvement of the Philippine exemption through the adoption of commendable practices by other States and the avoidance of potential pitfalls and threats. Ultimately, the Article aims to contribute to the wide discussion on counter-terrorism and international humanitarian law in hopes of improving the protection of the Philippine humanitarian space as the country simultaneously shores up its legal armaments to combat terrorism.
Keywords: Humanitarian Exemption, Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Counter-terrorism laws, International Humanitarian Law