DAVAO CITY, Philippines – More civil society organizations in Mindanao have expressed their opposition to the widely-criticized Anti-Terrorism Bill.
“The proposed amendments are ambiguous, overbroad and vague rendering many of our civil and political liberties vulnerable and at-risk which may be loosely used against any dissenters or opposition,” read the statement signed by members of different organizations, mostly from Davao City.
Those who initially signed the statement included lawyers Manuel Quibod, director of Ateneo de Davao University’s (AdDU) Legal Aid Services Office and Romeo Cabarde Jr., director of AdDU’s Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center; Augusto Miclat, Jr., executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue; members of the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao and Free Legal Assistance Group; and Konsyensya Davao.
The signatories pointed out that with the bill’s provisions “there are more reasons to be alarmed than to feel secure in our life, liberty, and property”.
The proposed tougher anti-terror measure, as amendments to the current Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, now only awaits Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s signature after it was swiftly approved by Congress despite widespread fear that it would infringe people’s basic rights and freedom.
“The fear that the bill may be used as a tool of repression and not as an apparatus in foiling terrorism is great and imminent,” the group added as they believed that no law should impair the people’s fundamental freedoms such as the right to free speech, peaceful assembly, due process, privacy, movement, and expression.
They called on Congress to be “more circumspect” in deliberating amendments to the HSA, noting that its impact on the life, liberty, and property of every citizen “can be deep, far-ranging, and irreversible.”
While they support the fight against terrorism, the signatories said it must be done without compromising the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of the Filipinos. The law, they maintained, must promote justice and secure the welfare of the people instead of silencing them.
They urged Pres Duterte to veto the proposed bill for its impropriety, illegality, and unconstitutionality.
Some Mindanao lawmakers also rejected the passage of ATB during the voting in the House of Representatives. They believed the bill is not meant to combat the problem of terrorism in Southern Philippines, rather it would endanger people’s rights.
‘Mañanita’ in CDO
Meanwhile, in Cagayan de Oro City, activists, many of them members of the Akbayan Youth-CDO, carried placards, bouquets of flowers, and cake as they expressed their indignation against the anti-terror bill on Friday, June 12, in time of the 122nd celebration of Philippine Independence Day.
“This protest is a call for the government to sort out its priorities. It seems the government is more concerned in silencing its critics and protecting the interest of a few, rather than focusing its efforts on resolving the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and confronting China on its invasion of our territories,” said Ann Balane, Akbayan Youth-CDO spokesperson, as she and her fellow protesters braved the afternoon rain and surrounded by police officers at the Divisoria Park.
Balane said the ATB would only add insult to injury by attempting to curtail the people’s freedom of speech at a time when there is a growing discontent towards the government’s actions.
“We cannot truly celebrate Independence Day when millions of Filipinos live in fear of an uncertain future due to the government’s failure to appropriately respond to the current public health crisis,” she said, adding that the Duterte government seemingly values more its friendship with China than defending Philippine sovereignty. (With reports from Ken Cagula and Jigger Jerusalem/davaotoday.com)