BAYAN Canada unequivocally condemns the passage of the terror bill in the Philippines, now signed into law by Duterte and known as Republic Act 11479: Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Duterte’s signing of the Anti-Terror Bill into the Anti-Terror Law on July 3 comes as no surprise from someone whose misogyny continues to spill from his rank mouth, whose “war” on drug and counterinsurgency program is done under the culture of impunity.
Ligtas ka ba? The vicious military and police are salivating in their barracks. Under this draconian law, Duterte will appoint an “anti-terrorism council” to designate individuals and organizations as terrorists. Those accused of “terrorism” can be detained without charges for up to 24 days and could be punished with life imprisonment. The law allows for 90 days of surveillance and wiretapping.
The new Republic Act 11479 legalizes the harassment, intimidation, illegal arrests and detention, and the extra-judicial killings of activists and human rights advocates from various sectors of Philippine society.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, Duterte has been a plague in the Philippines since coming to power in 2016. Through Executive Order 70, he created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as one more vehicle to sow desperate lies and launch attacks against groups and organizations who expose and oppose his policies and programs, in their exercise of their legal, civil and political rights. The use of rampant red-tagging of activists and critics continues to result not only in the increase of political prisoners but also in political assassinations, as in the brutal killings of mass leaders Jory Porquia of Bayan Muna and Karletz Badion, an urban poor leader of the organization KADAMAY. In the short span of four years, Duterte has bloated himself with unbridled power that he wields to suppress people’s democratic rights and to curtail constitutionally guaranteed rights, including that of the free press. He closed the media giant ABS-CBN and used the cyber-libel charge to arrest and persecute journalist Maria Ressa of online news site Rappler.
Duterte refused to uphold the government’s state obligation to protect the rights of political prisoners by refusing to release them given the pandemic. This is in stark contrast to the many governments in the world that released thousands of prisoners on humanitarian and public health grounds. Last July 1, political prisoner Raina Mae Nasino gave birth to her baby and both are still detained at the Manila City Jail. She should not be nursing and taking care of her baby behind bars.
True to form, the fascist Rodrigo Duterte proved to be no different from the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country from 1965-1986. Duterte’s initial “pro-people” stance and “anti-American” rhetoric were a complete ruse akin to a lap dog barking to beg food from his master, and thus exposed his subservience to U.S. imperialism. He backtracked on terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement and continued with the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and other military agreements, including the recent $2 billion arms deal.
Deeply buried in foreign debt worth billions of dollars from the US, China and Japan, the Duterte regime wantonly wastes the money on military armaments and defense budgets and ignores the budgets for basic social and public programs like health, education, jobs, and food security that serve the immediate needs of the people.
Under the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical and public health responses of widespread mass testing, correcting the long backlog of COVID 19 cases, and the implementation of a holistic and people-centered approach to the health crisis were deliberately and systematically ignored. Duterte, true to being utak pulbura, deployed his military and police minions across the country to red tag, shoot and kill, arrest, detain, intimidate, and terrorize the people. The COVID-19 lockdowns, meant to keep the people safe from the spread of the virus, backfired because there were no medical and socio-economic measures in place like mass testing, financial assistance, food support, income security and others. Duterte used the virus to intensify the militarization of the country and used the lockdowns to violate the people’s rights.
Overseas Filipino workers, touted as modern-day heroes, are treated as nothing more than milking cows by the regime, despite the pandemic. Not content with the remittances from overseas Filipinos, the regime is bent on ramming the PhilHealth forced membership with its mandatory premium increases even while angry overseas Filipinos and workers call for the scrapping of the mandatory PhilHealth. And if the state exactions from the OFWs were not enough, the regime has deliberately abandoned the OFWs to cope with the pandemic in their host countries, particularly those in the Middle East.
July 3, 2020 is a tragic day for Philippine democracy. But one thing is clear: if there is anyone who needs to be labeled as a terrorist, it is Duterte himself, a megalomaniac whose sole aim and purpose is to terrorize the Filipino masses.
The threat of Republic Act 11479 will not silence us. The Filipino people will continue to wage the righteous fight for a national and democratic society that is free from the burdens of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism. Today, the Filipino people, in and out of the country, takes this challenge to expose and oppose the law for what it is, the formalization of martial rule in the country.
BAYAN Canada calls on our members, our kababayan, allies and every democratic-minded person across Canada join the Filipino people in forging a united resistance against tyranny in the Philippines. We will not be cowed. Together, we will continue to rise up and to work to end the tyrannical rule of Duterte, as the people before us have done – the overthrow of Marcos in 1986, the ouster of Joseph Estrada and the electoral defeat of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.