MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers on Friday, July 13, said that the signing of the anti-terrorism bill into law did not come as a surpise, so the Duterte administration should also expect widespread protests against the measure.
Calling the anti-terror law the "death warrant to human rights," ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said that the President ignored strong public opposition to the measure when he signed the bill into law.
"[P]atuloy na nananawagan ang taumbayan para sa pagbabasura ng anti-terror law dahil nakita nila ang mga masasahol na probisyong aapak sa karapatang pantao ng Pilipino sa panahon na maisabatas ito. Asahan nilang sasalubungin ito ng mas malawakang protesta at, sa mga unang working days pa lang matapos ito pirmahan, ng mga petisyon sa Korte Suprema," Castro said.
(The public continue to call for the abolition of the anti-terror law as they have seen its repressive provisions that will trample on human rights the moment it takes effect. They should expect that the law will be met with widespread protests, and that petitions will be filed with the Supreme Court on the first working days after the signing.)
Youth, progressive, and human rights groups had raised alarm over the dangerous provisions of the law and the broad definition of what constitutes as "terrorism."
Even before the law was signed, 8 students and activists who protested against the measure were arrested by the police.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said that the law "further stifles dissent, imposes prior restraint to freedom of expression, derogates civil liberties, and institutes state terrorism." (READ: Duterte's war on dissent)
"The new anti-terror law repeals the less repressive 'Human Security Act of 2007' which provided for safeguards for fundamental freedoms. These safeguards were all obliterated by the 'Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020' and replaced with motherhood declarations which are orphaned by oppressive provisions," Lagman said.
As the new law threatens constitutionally-protected freedoms, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate urged the public to become more vigilant, remain united, and report any violations of human rights.
"We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to be very vigilant because darker days are ahead.… We will show them that in the face of repression, an awakened people will resist and fight back," Zarate said.
Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros – the two senators who voted against the bill – questioned the priorities of the administration in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Malinaw ngayon kung ano ang una sa prayoridad ng pamahaalan: hindi ang kalusugan at kapakanan ng mamamayan, kundi ang pagpatay sa ating kalayaan at ang pagkapit sa kapangyarihan," Hontiveros said.
(It's now clear what the government prioritizes: not the health and welfare of the people, but the death of our freedoms and clinging to power.)
Hontiveros presumed why such a law is being prioritized.
"They (administration) are afraid of the growing discontent of the people with the government's incompetence and abuses during the global pandemic," she said.
Pangilinan, meanwhile, likened the anti-terror law to garbage.
"Hindi tinutugunan ng anti-terror law ang problema ng sakit at gutom dulot ng pandemya ngunit sapilitang itong isinusubo sa taumbayan. Basura ang pilit na isinusubo sa taumbayan," Pangilinan said.
(The anti-terror law does not address the health problems and poverty brought about by the pandemic, yet it's being forced-fed to the public. They are forcing garbage upon the people.)
"Dapat ibasura ang walang kwentang batas na ito, at handa tayong kwestyunin ang constitutionality ng batas na ito sa Korte Suprema. (This nonsense of a law should be junked, and we are ready to question the constitutionality of this law before the Supreme Court)," he added.
The anti-terror law was pushed by the security officials in Duterte's Cabinet, an influential bloc of retired military generals. (READ: 'Terror law': The pet bill of the generals)
Duterte certifying the measure as urgent had pushed House lawmakers to be railroaded into adopting the Senate version and passing the bill on 2nd and 3rd reading within the same week. (READ: House of terror: How the lower chamber let slip a 'killer' bill)