Terror bill to institutionalize NTF-ELCAC’s campaign of State terrorism — Karapatan

Human rights watchdog Karapatan warned that the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) under the pending Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 is nothing more but a mere ploy to institutionalize the repressive campaigns of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Rebutting the claims of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. — who is also the NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson — that the ATC’s power to designate terrorists is a supposed safeguard against abuses, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that “the NTF-ELCAC’s rampant and rabid red-tagging of human rights groups and civil society organizations is already a giveaway on how the Duterte administration will use this terror law for its nefarious campaign of State terror.”

“Lying sycophants like Esperon can go on with their mental gymnastics on how the creation of the ATC will not be ‘abused’ or that the Anti-Terrorism Law won’t go after dissenters but the elephant in the room can’t be ignored. It’s as clear as day that the ATC will simply give more power to Duterte’s militarist lapdogs in his Cabinet. It is nothing more but an institutionalized version of the NTF-ELCAC — and for the NTF-ELCAC, being part of progressive organizations means supporting ‘communist terrorist’ groups and their ‘terroristic’ ideals. The Anti-Terrorism Bill is written and designed to target dissenters,” Palabay stated.

Many of the retired generals in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet who currently sit as part of the NTF-ELCAC — Esperon, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana — will form part of the ATC if the Anti-Terrorism Bill is passed into law. The Karapatan officer said that “even without the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the government is already mobilizing the NTF-ELCAC to orchestrate various attacks on people’s rights and to manufacture all sorts of lies and falsified charges to harass, threaten, vilify and even kill activists and political dissenters or to throw them in jail. The Anti-Terrorism Bill will bring the country’s human rights crisis toward a total catastrophe.”

Last June 5, 2020, seven activists and one bystander were violently arrested by the Cebu City Police for supposedly violating the government’s ban on mass gatherings after they held an indignation against the Anti-Terrorism Bill inside the University of the Philippines Cebu campus — violating the Soto-Enrile Accord. 

On June 10, farmers Rolando Reyes and Ranchi Tubban were arrested in Gonzaga, Cagayan over a trumped-up illegal possession of explosives charge after the Marine Battalion and the Provincial Mobile Force Company planted grenades in their van. In Iligan City on June 12, 16 youth and student activists holding an Independence Day “mañanita” against the Anti-Terrorism Bill were also threatened, harassed and arrested, and were coerced to sign a release receipt by the Iligan City Police saying they were “treated humanely, not maltreated or abused in any form” despite footages of the arrests showing otherwise.

“These unlawful arrests only show what the government has been doing for a long time and what it plans to do more once the Anti-Terrorism Bill is passed into law: more trumped-up charges, more arrests, and more killings. The measure is designed to be used to clamp down on dissent. We must not allow Duterte to fully realize his tyrannical delusions and we must put all efforts to frustrate his de facto martial law and fascist dictatorship,” she ended.