Karapatan reasserts call to junk terror law as SC holds preliminary conference on petitions

As the Supreme Court holds the preliminary conference on the 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act today, human rights alliance Karapatan reasserted that the law should be nullified “precisely because it is unconstitutional and dangerously infringes on basic rights and fundamental freedoms.” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, one of the petitioners, said that “Duterte’s terror law only serves to legalize the government’s rabid red-tagging rampage against human rights defenders, activists, and critics.”

“Without a doubt, the Senate committee hearing on red-tagging last Tuesday illustrated in clear detail how the Duterte government plans to use the Anti-Terrorism Act to publicly vilify dissenters as terrorists through baseless trumped-up charges, fabricated and tampered evidences, and recycled testimonies — all of which have been thrown out by courts. With notorious red-taggers, war criminals, and human rights violators at the helm of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict heading the Anti-Terrorism Council, the law, which masquerades itself as a counterterrorism measure, presents a threat to the Filipino people for it is nothing more than an instrument of State terrorism and repression,” Palabay stated.

She continued that “victims of human rights violations who testified before the Senate hearing are living proof of the dangers and threats of red-tagging and terrorist-labelling to our democracy, for many of them were branded by State security forces as ‘terrorists,’ ‘communists,’ and ‘terrorists sympathizers’ in public posters and flyers, posts in social media, seminars, as well as press conferences and media briefings, ‘order of battle’ diagrams, and even the government’s own proscription petition through the old Human Security Act before they were arrested or killed, and these life-threatening intimidation tactics continue without let-up despite widespread condemnation.”

Last November 20, Karapatan – Caraga documented tarpaulins from a certain “Movement Against Terrorism (MAT) – Surigao chapter” that were mounted in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Butuan City, Agusan del Norte; the tarpaulins included the pictures, names, and organizations of 32 known peace and human rights advocates, indigenous rights defenders, church leaders, teachers, unionists, community health and development workers, peasant organizers, and student activists — among them Renalyn Tejero and Naty Campos Castro from Karapatan – Caraga as well as Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat. The tarpaulins were also documented in Facebook posts as early as November 11.

“Billions of taxpayers’ money are being poured for these vilification campaigns, and public posters like these are essentially hitlists. Duterte himself has recently reaffirmed the go signal for the police and the military to continue their murderous rampage — and Duterte’s terror law only gives them more power to illegally arrest and to kill. Do we have to wait for another individual to be murdered before the Supreme Court acts on our petition against this draconian law? We urgently call on the Supreme Court to stand with the people — to stand with democracy and justice — by upholding and defending our hard-won rights and freedoms. The amount of petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act makes the people’s voice loud and clear,” the Karapatan officer ended.