July 3 (UPI) -- Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte signed an antiterrorism bill Friday that critics say could allow greater suppression of criticism of the government and human rights abuses.
Muslim groups and regional governments in the southern part of the country have spoken against the measure, which allows for terrorism suspects to be detained without a warrant and lengthens the amount of time they can be held without being charged in court.
The Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which amends the 2007 Human Security Act, also removes a requirement that police present suspects before a judge to determine whether they have been tortured.
Supporters of the bill say the legislation would put an end to communist and Islamic insurgencies the country has fought for decades.
Harry Roque, a spokesman for Duterte's government, defended the law as a necessary measure in the fight against terrorism and said the president and his legal team carefully reviewed the law before signing it.
"Terrorism, as we often said, strikes anytime and anywhere," Roque said. "It is a crime against the people and humanity. Thus, the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach."
Earlier this week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Duterte not to sign the bill, and human rights activists in the country have spoken against it.
"This without a doubt is the most unpopular and perilous piece of legislation that could ever be pushed by a government that is fixated with the potion of power," said Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, which represents activist and indigent groups.
Olalia said his group would challenge the new legislation.
"The Anti-Terrorism Law will give a green light to the systematic targeting of political critics and opponents, as well as ordinary Filipinos who dare to speak out," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
In June the United Nations human rights office released a report saying Duterte's government has repeatedly engaged in widespread human rights violations in the name of national security and drug trafficking.