DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Over 50 student councils, student publications, student and community-based youth organizations across the country signed a unity statement opposing the proposed Anti-Terror Bill being pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The statement posted by Youth Act Now Against Tyranny on Tuesday night, protested how the bill is being railroaded by Congress as the country is reeling from COVID-19 pandemic.
Their statement said the passage of the Anti-Terror bill will “serve as an instrument of the Duterte administration to threaten and silence those who criticize the social and economic policies that have adverse effects on the Filipino people.”
Among the signatories from Davao City include the University of the Philippines student publication Himati, the UP Min Mentefuwaley- LGBTQ+ community, the student councils of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science and Mathematics, and the School of Management, and ANAK UP Min, Ateneo de Davao University student publication Atenews, University of Southeastern Philippines Obrero student publication Collegiate Headlight, ANAK Assumption College of Davao and Sining at Kultura Laan sa Bayan (Siklab) Assumption College of Davao.
Attacks on academic freedom
The group said the bill “attacks academic freedom which schools, students and teachers seek to uphold. Any constituent of schools who participates in acts such as joining progressive organizations and reading articles on Philippine society can be the subject of investigation and surveillance by state forces.”
They also said passing this bill will give legal basis for “undeclared” Martial Law in the country.
“It will unleash state terror for any person or group can be considered a terrorist based merely on suspicion or association,” they said.
They noted that individuals who aired their views on social media on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic were arrested by authorities. A former editor of the student publication of University of the East The Dawn was also harassed by a teacher and local officials in his hometown for airing criticisms.
The youth groups appealed to lawmakers to reject the passage of the bill, which was passed on second reading during Tuesday night’s plenary at the House of Representatives.
“The ATB is not intended to target real terrorists, who can already be punished under current laws,” they said.
The proponents of the bill said there are safeguards against abuse of the bill, saying complaints on abuse can be filed at the Commission on Human Rights.
But the group said there is an issue on trust.
“We do not trust so-called safeguards in the ATB as the implementer of the bill, if passed, are the same institutions that have committed countless abuses through the fake War on Drugs and the counter-insurgency program in provinces and regions,” their statement reads.
Addu, UP Min voice opposition
Atenews, in their official statement, believed that the Anti-Terrorism Bill “will jeopardize the people’s fundamental civil liberties and human rights as well the country’s democratic traditions.”
“Atenews vehemently condemns acts of terrorism, especially in Mindanao.However, it will not support a Bill that is visibly marked by provisions prone to abuse and ultimately, are detrimental to the people. It is not unlikely that this Bill will replicate martial law. We have learned enough from history never again to submit ourselves to such tyrannical rule,” reads Atenews statement.
ANAK UPMin, a student alliance at UP Mindanao criticized Duterte for his opportunism to push the “de-facto Martial Law” instead of addressing the pandemic.
“While the virus slowly kills the Filipino people, this Duterte administration is killing ou Constitution and our rights while they bow to imperialist China,” the group said.