New Philippine Terror Bill Tramples on People’s Rights and Civil Liberties – BAYAN-Canada
June 3, 2020 — BAYAN-Canada strongly rejects the terror bill under the guise of “anti-terrorism” railroaded by the Philipppine Congress. The impending passage of the proposed legislation comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of the Philippine government and its agencies to timely and competently respond to the health crisis and its serious impact on the people’s livelihood, jobs, food security and public safety.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 — or the Terror Bill as many concerned groups have aptly re-named it — toughens the Human Security Act of 2007 and declares a new “open season” against what the state defines as “terrorism”. Both the Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by allies of Philippine President Duterte who has called for the Bill’s passage and “immediate enactment.”
The Terror Bill puts a legal imprint, more legal justification to what is already happening around the country, a de facto martial law. The Terror Bill strikes serious blows on fundamental civil and political rights, from warrantless arrests and limited detention even with no charges, to state wiretapping and mass surveillance. The Terror Bill only exacerbates the culture of impunity that is already in full force in the country..
Since coming into power, the hallmark of Duterte as Commander-in-Chief has been the relentless crackdown on thousands of Filipinos using Oplan Tokhang (Operation Plan Knock-and-Plead), extrajudicial killings of social activists and poor people, police brutality against youth, and martial law in the southern region of Mindanao. Like most dictators, Duterte has never been reluctant to use his powers as the President and as Commander-in-Chief to invoke emergency powers or impose martial law, whether declared or not, in the different regions of the country.
The Terror Bill exposes the misplaced priorities of the Duterte government where instead of using its resources and forces to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as the government mandated to serve and protect the people’s interests, it has instead made the people suffer and suffer tremendously. Government response, or absence of it, has made the Covid-19 pandemic a national disaster for the people. “Community quarantine” has been used by authorities to lockdown the people under the watch of a police state while a number of its officers have violated the protocols themselves undermining public health. Because of the culture of impunity, Major General Debold Sinas (current Metro Manila police chief and who masterminded the annihilation campaign in Negros Island while posted there) could hold his birthday feast amid and still call for ‘discipline’ on protocols against mass gatherings and go unpunished. Under this pandemic, people’s activists who go to the frontline to deliver food and other supplies are arrested, and worse, killed. Let us not forget Carlito Badion of the urban poor group Kadamay and Jory Porquia of Bayan Muna partylist who were constantly red-tagged before they were extrajudicially executed. Lockdowns have essentially been lockdowns of human rights and civil liberties as well.
Weaponizing the legal system against the people by a government run by bureaucrat capitalists, big landlords and big compradors beholden to no one’s interests except their own and other powerful interests has been done throughout our history. And like before, it is our duty to expose and stop it. As overseas Filipino migrants, we see this in the imposition on overseas Filipinos of the mandatory PhilHealth coverage and the increase in its premiums. And in its punitive provisions for non-compliance, we see an attempt to coerce and terrorize overseas Filipinos into fearful submission.
As overseas Filipinos, we have strong ties, not only to our families and communities in the Philippines, but also to the strong democratic people’s movement that has always stood in the frontline against the Duterte government’s war against its own people.
As overseas Filipinos, we expose and oppose the Terror Bill for what it is — as an institutionalization and justification of the attacks against the people, be it on their social and political rights, their economic rights, or their civil liberties.
In Canada, where June is marked as Filipino Heritage Month,we call on all our members, allied organizations and partners, friends and communities to show that as Filipinos, we come from a long and proud lineage of Filipino men and women who, all throughout history, fought back against all kinds of injustices and abuses, and who continue to fight back in the movement for national democracy.