Karapatan: Railroading draconian amendments to anti-terror bill to further erode rights situation in PH

Railroading the passage of the draconian amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Bill will further erode the already dismal human rights situation in the Philippines, human rights watchdog Karapatan warned, as the group denounced the adoption of the Senate version of the bill yesterday, May 29, by the House of Representatives Committees on Public Order and Safety and on National Defense and Security.

Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor averred that “the House joint committees basically threw out all the position and recommendations of human rights organizations and international experts in the name of fast-tracking the Duterte regime’s desperate bid to crush dissent, civil liberties, and people’s rights.”

“From its murderous war on drugs and a rabid counterinsurgency campaign to extending emergency executive powers, as well the numerous attacks on freedom of expression, the passage of draconian amendments to the Anti-Terrorism law will seal the deal in Duterte’s brutal campaign of State terrorism—the final piece in the regime’s bid to establish a full blown fascist dictatorship and de facto martial law,” Clamor continued.

Majority of the House joint committee members voted in favor of approving the motion to adopt the Senate version of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which is set to replace the Human Security Act of 2007. Karapatan lauded the Makabayan bloc and Rep. Kit Belmonte for heeding the calls against the amendments. The Karapatan officer cautioned that, despite the claims of legislators that the proposed law has human rights safeguards, “the new law will only embolden to commit more human rights violations with more impunity.”

“We have already seen what happens when state security forces are given more power. Ordinary citizens criticizing the president and his anti-people policies have been served subpoenas or have been put under surveillance, harassed, and arrested, even for satirical posts. The bill’s overbroad definition of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terroristic acts’ along with the removal of penalties for law enforcement effectively criminalizes any and all forms of dissent and opposition to anti-people policies and acts of government as a form of ‘terrorism’ and will make it highly prone to abuse,” he said.

On social media, the hashtag #JunkTerrorBill trended last night as online users sounded alarm over the bill’s looming passage. Clamor warned that “amid public discontent and unrest caused by the government’s inutile response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House committees’ approval of the amendments will put in place a legal framework for heightened State repression that will allow State security forces to go after even the most ordinary of critics in order to silence any sign of dissent. As if on cue, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict released last night an entire list terror-tagging various human rights groups and mass organizations, revealing the militarist intent of these amendments.”

“We don't need a law that will further erode the already dismal human rights situation in the country. Further unleashing State terrorism upon the people in the middle of a health crisis will only result to more lives lost. What we need are genuine reforms for social change and for the government to address the root causes of inequality, poverty and the lack of social justice. People’s rights and welfare should be upheld, protected, and asserted now more than ever,” the Karapatan officer ended.