Bulatlat special coverage: The Anti-Terror Act of 2020

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 took effect last July 18. According to human rights groups, this is the final piece in President Duterte’s de facto martial law.

Human rights groups and advocates are steadfast in opposing the law since its filing in Congress. They said that it tramples upon the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Filipino people. There are now at least 10 petitions filed with the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the law.

Read how and why the Anti-Terrorism Act is violating the Constitution and why the people are up in arms about its implementation.

Petitioners to SC: Stop Terror Law “…[t]here is a compelling necessity and urgency to prevent, running up to almost two (2) months before the oral arguments, any further implementation of the provisions of the assailed law as they impact on the lives, liberties and security of the petitioners and the public at large.”

Then and now, indigenous peoples fighting for ancestral lands charged with terrorism Jay Garung and Junior Ramos were arrested and detained by the military when they were fleeing their community due to intense military operations in August. They were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Makabayan Coalition at the Supreme Court for the filing of petition against Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. (Photo from the Koalisyong Makabayan Facebook page)

Petitioners urge SC to halt enforcement of terror law  “The issuance of the IRR has set the stage for the unimpeded implementation of the assailed law; the targeting of activists and critics of the government; the suppression of dissent; and the curtailment of civil and political rights, all in the altar of national security.”

Canceling oral arguments on terror law, a disservice to the public, high court told The country’s terror law, they said, “places a shroud of fear over the entire nation as it deters the full and free exercise of fundamental rights and disturbs the balance of powers in government. It is not a measure to counter terrorism; it is in itself a source of terror.”

Experts, advocates say terror law is dangerous, open to abuse Experts and concerned citizens see the potential of the law of being abused and used against those who simply want to express their opinion on issues affecting the country.

Implementing rules ‘worse than Terror Law itself’ – rights advocates The Anti-Terrorism Act violates international standards on human rights and countering-terrorism with its vague and overboard definitions of “terrorism” as well as the excessive powers it grants to the Executive branch of the government.

Indigenous peoples, Moro groups urge high court to junk ‘terror law’ “The terror law is added ammunition to the existing arsenal of repressive laws against the Indigenous and Moro people. This is a mockery to the exercise of our fundamental rights”

Not a dictator? What we’re witnessing is creeping cronyism, not to mention authoritarianism. Essential in consolidating such power is controlling the other branches of government. The House of Representatives has been acting like Duterte’s rubber stamp with the closure of ABS-CBN as the most glaring proof. The fraudulent midterm elections in 2019 sent Duterte’s closest allies to the Senate, and the most vocal critics have been charged with inciting to sedition and other crimes. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno was removed from her post and now, 11 of 15 SC justices were appointed by Duterte.

Minding your digital security amid terror law As terror law takes effect, our digital security is at stake. Community journalists, artists, writers, activists and dissenters are not spared from the law’s dangerous provisions such as surveillance.

Marie Dinglasan, popularly known as Aling Marie, addresses the crowd June 12. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Groups protest signing of ‘Terror Law’ 
“The Anti-Terror Act of 2020 tramples on our basic human rights and it is unconstitutional. It does not provide us safeguards and protection from terrorism. If anything, it is the very tool that creates all-out terror among the people.”

Why is Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 worse than Martial Law? Forty-four leaders of various organizations appealed to the high court to declare the law unconstitutional, for it “insidiously encroaches upon fundamental and constitutional rights, such arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, liberty and property and the non-observance of the right to due process and to presumption of innocence.”

Journalists, artists file 14th petition against terror law In their petition, the groups cited that even before the enactment of the draconian law, many of the petitioners have already suffered from red-tagging, threats, and harassment from authorities.

Church leaders join mounting legal opposition vs. terror law In their petition, church leaders assailed that the vagueness of the Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 will expose them to “credible threat of prosecution” for their ministries and advocacies.

Groups urge SC to nullify anti-terror law 
“Given the vast and greater powers bestowed under the law, it will have a wide-ranging effects of violating existing constitutionally-guaranteed rights of our people, thus, the issuance of a shield against injustice, a temporary restraining order, against its enforcement, effective until the finality of the judgment, is fair and prudent under the circumstances.”

Women’s group questions terror law  “To be branded and declared as terrorist is dangerous. Similarly dangerous is being branded as communist front,” the petition read, “These are an all-inclusive category which attempts to demonize Petitioners and other groups and individuals who are advocating for social change.”

‘Terror law is a bad law’ — petitioners
“The law serves as the trigger for a hand that has long been poised to shoot. Verily, the prosecution and escalated persecution of activists, dissenters, and even ordinary citizens who dare harbor opinions contrary to the government line are not questions of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’ It becomes a question now of how large a scale the ensuing human rights crisis will be. That is, unless the law is stopped in its tracks.”

In this Bulatlatan episode, Nonoy Espina, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Maria Victoria Beltran, Cebu-based artist detained for her satirical post, discuss the implications of the newly signed law on free speech and expression.

How terror law could hamper humanitarian efforts 
While the terror law does not include humanitarian activities in both Sections 3 and 12, the exemption provided for the likes of the International Crescent of the Red Cross, the Philippine Red Cross, and other similar state-recognized humanitarian groups can implicitly cover that providing aid may be considered as terror act. (Read more)

‘Advocacy, protests could be declared terrorist’ — lawyers
While Section 4 of RA 11479 states “that terrorism shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights, Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Javier Colmenares said the main problem is that the law penalizes intention. (Read more)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. (Video grabbed from UN livestream)

‘Anti-Terror Bill worrying’ – UN report 
The report also noted that the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act which replaces the Human Security Act of 2007 “dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant from three to 14 days, extendable by another 10 days.”

“The vague definitions in the Anti-Terrorism Act may violate the principle of legality,” the report read. (Read more)

Greta Thunberg, climate activists join call to #JunkTerrorLaw 
“The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 undermines constitutionally protected rights to political expression and dissent by equating activism with terrorist activities that are defined under the law.”

International community urged to continue monitoring human rights in PH 
They appealed to the member-States of the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt and endorse High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report, including recommendations for continuous monitoring and independent and impartial investigation of the human rights situation in the country.

‘The fight is not over’ | Groups vow to challenge ‘Terror Law’ 
“We are prepared, and we will continue the fight against Duterte’s legalized martial law. We will not go gently into the night.”

Why the anti-terror bill is sanctioned state terrorism
Who is exempted from being labeled “terrorists?” Rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, Church people, peasants, indigenous peoples and workers have been publicly vilified by state security forces as such. (Read more)

Anti-terror bill removes safeguards, accountability
The most glaring deletion in SB 1083, which was passed by the Senate last week, is Section 50 of the HSA. The provision which states, “A person acquitted of charges of terrorism is entitled to damages in the amount of P500,000 for every day of detention without a warrant. The amount of damages shall be automatically charged against the appropriations of the police agency or the Anti Terrorism Council that brought or sanctioned the filing of the charges against the accused,” has been removed in its entirety. (Read more)

Lawyers question anti-terror bill provisions ‘undermining judiciary, due process’
The consolidated version of the bill provides broad powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which include filing of applications to declare organizations as terrorist, to conduct surveillance against suspected persons/organizations, to freeze assets of suspected terrorists, among others. The ATC is also granted authority to order arrest and detention without judicial warrant of persons suspected of the crime. (Read more)

‘Anti-terror bill to transform PH into a police state’ — groups
“It will terrorize targeted critics, dissenters and social advocates more than the real terrorists with unbridled State power and prejudice through subjective definitions, arbitrary arrests, and extended detentions.” (Read more)

Debunking government’s defense of the anti-terror bill 
Who have been declared “communist-terrorists” by state security forces and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict? Practically all sectoral organizations advocating for reforms and genuine change. They did not spread terror or cause panic among the public but called on the government to act on legitimate demands of ordinary citizens. (Read more)

Anti-terror bill threatens hard won freedoms – bishop 
The Franciscan community in the Philippines found it terrifying that lawmakers have turned their attention to the passing of a bill supposedly against terrorism when it has yet to look into mass testing, provision of decent accommodations for Filipino migrant workers, efficient mass transportation for returning workers, to name a few. (Read more)

4 reasons why anti-terror bill should be junked
“Allowing this administration, the added leeway and greater authority that come with a newer, more oppressive anti-terrorism law would open the floodgates to graver forms of abuses. The dangers that come with the Anti-Terrorism Bill are all too real to be ignored, and we cannot and should not wait until the final nail in the coffin has been hammered down.” (Read more)

Anti-terrorism campaigns worldwide lack human rights grounding – UN expert
UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin said in her report that most policies countering terrorism worldwide directly contributes to human rights violations. (Read more)

UN expert expresses concern on anti-terror bill 
“The advancement of broad, vague and overly abrasive definition and legislation relating to terrorism can have the opposite of the intended effect which is that by silencing voices, by cracking down on civil society, by weakening the due process and protections offered by the criminal justice system that doesn’t strengthen the States by rather weakening the due process protections offered by the criminal justice system — that doesn’t strengthen the States but rather weakens it in the long run.” (Read more)

Critics assert that the anti-terror bill would infringe on the civil and political rights of dissenters and ordinary citizens. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan)

Religious groups raise concern against anti-terror bill as 30-day deadline nears 
“Worrisome are the expanded and vague definitions of a “terrorist;” the powers given to the Anti-Terror Council to designate a group as a “terrorist group;” the weakening of the protection of one’s privacy and the safeguards against arrests and detention without warrants.”

Anti-terror bill to legalize crackdown in the North
“With the fast-tracking of the bill, graver human rights violations among IPs and farmers are expected, especially for groups who are known for their valiant opposition of destructive projects like Chico River dams back in the ‘70s. For so long, Cordillera has been treated as a resource base for investments and we have been politically persecuted for defending our land.”

#GrandMañanita | Critics of anti-terror bill stage party-themed protest 
Despite warnings from Malacañang that joining protest is still prohibited, thousands braved the rains and joined the party-themed protest against the anti-terror bill.

Independent artists join protest against anti-terror bill 
“We can be arrested on mere suspicion. That’s the most tragic in that bill. Regardless if you trust the government and its state forces or not, you cannot give them absolute authority on that. You do not want to give them the opportunity to abuse power. It is important that laws have checks and balances.”

What the anti-terror bill means to ordinary citizens 
Farmers, indigenous peoples and teachers have been tagged as terrorists and subjected to various forms of attack since Duterte assumed office. The Anti-Terror Bill, if enacted into law, would only escalate what they describe as “state terror” and would target ordinary citizens for merely exercising their constitutional rights.

Groups demand junking of anti-terror bill 
Labor groups and other progressive organizations held a protest action today outside the House of Representatives March 3, demanding the scrapping of Anti-Terror Bill.

Rights group slam Anti-terror drill as license to suppress mass movement 
“The lockdown and the said operations are part of the Duterte administration’s anti-communist hysteria, and has no objective other than to ‘pacify the human rights movement in Davao, which has a proud history of advancing civil and political rights.” (https://www.bulatlat.org)