Karapatan urges DOJ to recommend veto of terror bill

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should uphold people’s rights by recommending the veto of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, human rights watchdog Karapatan strongly urged, as the DOJ reviews the proposed measure. In a letter addressed to DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that the Anti-Terrorism Bill “will inevitably and ultimately infringe on the people’s exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”

“The DOJ cannot ignore the loud and justified public clamor against the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It is more than glaring that the measure is severely unconstitutional and inconsistent with international human rights standards. We fear that it will enable the wholesale disregard of human and people’s rights, and that it can potentially further constrict the already narrowing democratic and civic spaces in the country, especially under the Duterte administration. Karapatan urgently and strongly calls on the DOJ to recommend the veto of the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” Palabay stated.

After the Anti-Terrorism Bill was railroaded in Congress and transmitted to Malacañang, the DOJ has been requested to conduct a review of the proposed measure. According to reports, the department is set to submit their comments and recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, June 17. Following the DOJ’s recommendations, the president can decide to sign the bill, to refuse to act on the bill and let it lapse into law, or to veto it.

The Karapatan official called on the DOJ to recommend the vetoing of the bill, asserting that “if the DOJ recommends that the president should veto the bill, this recommendation will be a strong pushback against the clearly malicious efforts to railroad the passage of the bill — which can be effectively weaponized against dissent and anyone who stands in the way of the Duterte regime’s ambitions of an all-out dictatorship, even if the president has certified the bill urgent.”

“We ultimately believe terrorism can be addressed, not through a defective militarist approach that our State forces employ, but through the pursuit of a just and lasting peace, through tackling the roots of the problems of social injustice and inequality, and through genuine respect for people’s rights. The passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill will have an immense impact on the rights and civil liberties of human rights defenders and citizens, and the DOJ should recommend the veto of the measure,” she ended.