Rights group to legislators: Don't be instruments to authoritarian rule, resist anti-terror law

In a press conference on Monday, March 2, 2020, human rights alliance Karapatan joined other progressive organisations in opposing the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill, which seeks to amend and strengthen RA 9372 or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007. The rights group raised alarm over contentious and vague provisions, which it said “infringes on and effectively curtails people’s democratic rights and lays the legal groundwork for a de facto martial rule.”

Senate Bill No. 1083, the Senate’s version of the Anti-Terrorism Law was approved recently in its third and final reading, with 19 senators voting in favor, while only two voted in opposition. “The bill contains provisions that threatens the right to security and privacy, with provisions legalizing extended periods of surveillance, warrantless arrests, and arbitrary detention of suspected terrorists, along with other violations on the freedom of association, free expression, mobility and  due process,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General, Roneo Clamor, said.

Furthermore, he said, “the removal of the penalty for state forces who have committed wrongful detention, a feature of the HSA will now embolden state forces to act with impunity and sow terror. Under the vague provisions of the bill, everyone can be tagged as terrorist, and arrested, incarcerated and charged on the basis of mere suspicion that he has committed, is thinking to commit, about to commit, or is committing acts the bill considers as acts terrorism, even when there is no visible physical act being done.  The vague provision on inciting to terrorism in effect will restrict dissent in all forms at the risk of being tagged as terrorist or harboring terrorist or providing material support to terrorists, which all carry the same penalties of life imprisonment.”

“Even without the proposed amendments to the HSA, this law has already been used to harass critics and activists through arrests and trumped up charges alongside a massive red tagging campaign of human rights defenders in order to delegitimize them and malign their organisations. We have seen the intensification of such under Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ECLAC). The Anti-Terrorism Law will further tighten Duterte’s dictatorial grip on power,” the Karapatan official said.

Six counterpart bills are currently pending before the House Committee on Public Order and Safety.  The Karapatan official urged lawmakers in the Lower House to reject the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law: “We urgently call on our lawmakers to not let themselves be instruments of state violence and repression by not passing such a deplorable legislation. We urge you to put the interests of the people and human rights by resisting to lay down the legal foundation of Duterte’s reign of terror. We urge you to address the roots of terrorism through genuine reforms and not all out suppression of dissent, militarist policies and authoritarian rule. Now is the time to unite in resisting a sitting tyrant and rage against the weaponization of law,” he concluded.