Vice President Leni Robredo – the leader of the opposition movement against President Rodrigo Duterte – warned the anti-terrorism bill is prone to be abused by people who have no qualms planting evidence against critics and silencing them.
Robredo issued the statement on Wednesday, June 3, the same day the House of Representatives is expected to pass the controversial measure on final reading.
“Ang tanong ko nga: terorismo ba talaga ang tuon ng [anti-]terror bill? O gusto lang nitong bigyan ng kapangyarihan ang estado para bansagang terorista kung sino man ang kanilang gusto?” Robredo said.
(My question is this: is the anti-terror bill really about terrorism? Or does it want to give powers to the State to declare as terrorist anyone it wishes?)
“Especially in the wrong hands—in the hands of people who have no qualms about using disinformation, inventing evidence, or finding the smallest of pretexts to silence its critics—napakamapanganib ng kapangyarihang ito (this power is lethal),” she added.
The anti-terrorism bill, if passed into law, would not only broaden the definition of terroristic act but also also lessen restrictions on law enforcement agents.
The measure would also empower top Cabinet officials to form the Anti-Terror Council, which would have the authority to determine and ordered the arrest of people they consider to be terrorists.
The Duterte government has long been notorious of red-tagging government critics, including progessive lawmakers, human rights defenders, and even journalists. (READ: Lives in danger as red-tagging campaign intensifies)
Duterte certified the anti-terror bill as urgent even as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, where nearly 19,000 people have already been infected as of Tuesday, June 2.
On Wednesday, the Vice President said while she believes there is no space in society for terrorism, Congress should not be railroading a controversial bill like the anti-terrorism measure.
She then urged the Duterte administration to focus more on addressing the COVID-19 crisis.
“Inuulit natin ang panawagan: Itutok sana ng bawat institusyon ang buo at walang-kahating atensyon sa pagtugon sa mga pinakaagaran at pinakamahahalagang pangangailangan. Huwag madaliin ang pagpanday ng batas, lalo na ang mga batas na direktang nakakaapekto sa buhay at paraan ng pamumuhay ng napakarami sa atin,” Robredo said.
(I am repeating my appeal: May every institution pour its attention on responding to the most immediate and important needs. Do not railroad the passage of the law, especially one that can directly affect the lives of many of us.)
“Sikapin sana nating maisalamin nito ang saloobin at adhikain ng taumbayan. Hinihimok natin ang ating mga mambabatas: magpamalas sana sila ng ibayong pakikinig at paninilay sa pagpanday ng [anti-]terror bill,” the Vice President added.
(May they consider the sentiments of the people. We are urging our lawmakers: may they listen and reflect well in legislating the anti-terror bill.)