Karapatan: Railroading passage of anti-terror bill in rubber stamp Congress already a clear sign of dictatorship

Human rights watchdog Karapatan is sounding alarm over the passage of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill on its third and final reading at the House of Representative after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the bill as urgent. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay called the bill’s passage at the Lower House “a blatant travesty of democratic checks and balances” and that “with Duterte controlling all branches of government, a rubber stamp Congress with not a single ounce of legislative independence is already a clear and glaring sign of a dictatorship.”

“Duterte’s lapdogs in Congress have basically rejected and blocked out all individual amendments during the hearings and they are hellbent in making sure that this monstrous and repressive piece of legislation is passed, and served to Duterte on a silver platter,” Palabay continued.

House Bill No. 6875 passed on its third and final reading this afternoon, June 3, despite strong opposition from progressive lawmakers, human rights lawyers and groups, freedom of expression advocates and the general public, as outrage over the bill continued to pour out on social media through the #JunkTerrorBillNow hashtag and in the streets, with the protests by progressive groups today in Quezon City. After the bill was certified urgent by Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the bill is “as good as passed” and that only terrorists should supposedly fear the measure.

The Karapatan officer denounced Sotto’s statements and the assertions of Secretary of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the bill has enough human rights safeguards: “The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill removes necessary human rights safeguards and penalties for abuses from the Human Security Act such as compensation for victims of wrongful detention, while vaguely expanding the definition and scope of what constitutes a ‘terrorist act.’ When activists are being red-tagged and vilified as ‘communist terrorists,’ and when anyone who expresses dissenting opinions on government measures are arrested and jailed, we have every reason to believe that the bill will not only be prone to abuse. The fascist regime will wield it as a legal weapon against dissent.”

“The fascist Duterte regime is cowing to supposed ‘international pressure’ to pass the measure in order to secure billions of loans and foreign funding for its bloody counterinsurgency campaigns. This will only unleash the most brutal attacks of State terrorism on the people by inflicting harm on civilians and violating standards of international humanitarian law. Habang pinapabayaan ang panawagan ng mamamayan para sa ayuda, mass testing, at iba pang serbisyong pangkalusugan, niraratsada ang karahasan at diktadura sa Kongreso,” she said.

“Terrorism can never be curbed by a law that infringes on citizens’ rights and liberties where the State and its forces are established as the sole interpreters of what constitutes ‘terrorism.’ Propping up the terrorism bogeyman for authoritarian measures will not solve a problem that needs a comprehensive understanding and framework to be able to tackle its root causes. In fact, many of this country’s most brutal terrorists are in high positions of power—and some can even sit as president,” Palabay ended.