DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao lawmakers were among the minority in the House of Representatives that voted against the Anti-Terror Act 2020 or House Bill 6875 during their plenary last Wednesday.
168 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill and 36 voted against, with 29 abstentions.
The act was passed despite massive opposition from media, legal experts, and other institutions, as this was deemed “urgent” by President Rodrigo Duterte and security officials.
Those who gave strong dissenting votes and statements came from representatives from Mindanao. Here are their explanations of their vote.
Eufemia Cullamat, Bayan Muna Party-list Representative, from Surigao del Sur
“Totoong nakakasuklam ang TERORISMO; dapat itong gapiin. Subalit hindi sa pagwasak sa mga saligang karapatan ng mamamayan na ginagarantyahan ng ating saligang batas. Walang magagaping terorismo kung ang iiral lamang ay ang Terorismo ng gobyerno laban sa kanyang mamamayan.Nararapat ko lamang ilahad ang mga saloobin ko. Bilang isang Lumad na galing sa Mindanao, may resposibilidad ako sa bayan na ito at sa kapwa kong katutubo na tutulan at labanan ang baluktot at immoral na mga polisiya na kontra-mamamayanan. Mahal ko ang bansa ko. Hindi ako pwedeng magbulag-bulagan at mabingi-bingihan sa mga pangyayari ngayon. Kaya’t palagi kong ipapahayag ang hinaing naming mga katutubo at magsasaka. Muli, hindi higit pang panunupil ang solusyon sa mapanupil nang sistema na nagdulot ng kawalan ng hustisya, lupa, disenteng trabaho.”
(Terrorism is condemnable, and must be stopped. But this should not shatter the Bill of Rights guaranteed in our Constitution. Terrorism cannot be overpowered by the terrorism launched by the government against the people. Let me express what I feel. As a Lumad from Mindanao, my responsibility is to the people and to my fellow indigenous peoples who oppose and fight the crooked and immoral anti-people policies. I love my country. I cannot be blind and deaf to what is happening now. This is why I always carry the voices of the indigenous peoples and farmers. Again, more repression is never a solution to this oppressive system that has brought injustice, landlessness, and lack of decent jobs.)
Mujiv Hataman, Basilan District Representative
“Uulitin ko: This law is not meant to combat terrorism. It is meant to give the state the power to tag whomever they please as a terrorist. Hindi pa ba tayo natututo? Pag-etsapuwera, pagpapabaya, pang-aapi, pang-aabuso, paniil ng karapatan at kalayaan–ito ang tunay na nagtutulak sa ilan tungo sa violent extremism. Sana nga ay mamulat ang lahat: Kung ganito kalabnaw at kalawak ang mga probisyon–kung ganito kadaling ma-misinterpret o maabuso ang nakasaad sa batas–baka lalo lang mapalala ng batas na ito, kaysa maampat o mapigilan ang terorismo.”
(I repeat: This law is not meant to combat terrorism. It is meant to give the state the power to tag whomever they please as a terrorist. Haven’t we learn our lesson? The ostracism, neglect, exploitation, abuse, repression of rights and freedom, these are what push people towards violent extremism. I hope everyone is aware of this if these provisions are vague and broad if it’s easy to misinterpret and abuse what is in the law – may be the law will make worse rather than stopping terrorism.)
Amihilda Sangcopan, Anak Mindanao Party-list Representative
“Kaming mga Moro at Lumad ang madalas na unang biktima ng tunay na terorismo, hindi lamang sa bansang ito kundi sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo. At sa pagpapatupad ng batas na ito, naniniwala po kami na madadagdagan lang nito ang pagpapahirap at pang-aabuso sa katulad naming nahuhusgahan na mga terorista bago pa man malaman ang aming mga pangalan o makita ang aming mga mukha.”
(We the Moro and Lumad have always been the first victim of the real kind of terrorism, not only here but everywhere in the world. And with the passage of this law, I believe this will add to the burden and abuse against us, where we are labeled terrorists even before they know our names or our faces.)
Yasser Alonto Balindong. Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative
“Mr. Speaker, I am faced with a dilemma. As a Maranao, we know that we are the most affected when it comes to terrorism as shown to us by the Marawi Siege of 2017, among others. On the other hand, we, together with the other Muslim Filipinos, are also the most vulnerable when it comes to abuse of authority. We want to stamp out terrorism but we also want to prevent abuse of authority. There are many proposals to fine-tune the Bill to make it constitutional and prevent the proposed law from being used to perpetrate evil against our people. But those proposals were turned down. Therefore, I have to wait for a better proposal that can both prevent terrorism and protect our people from abuses.”
Rufus Rodriguez, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative
“The anti-terror bill endangers our civil and human rights The State should guard against violent terrorist attacks, but should equally uphold the right of freedom of speech, right to peaceably assemble, and the Constitution. This representation from the 2nd district of Cagayan de Oro votes NO.” (davaotoday.com)