DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called on President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act 2020, citing its “chilling effects” on human rights and humanitarian work that has been under siege under his administration.
Bachelet made this appeal during her presentation of the Philippines’ human rights situation during the UN Human Rights Council’s 44th regular session Tuesday, June 30 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UN human rights chief noted that more than 248 human rights defenders were killed from 2015 to 2019. Duterte assumed the presidency in mid-2016.
“Human rights defenders are routinely smeared as terrorists, enemies of the state, and even viruses akin to COVID-19,” Bachelet said.
As the country is still reeling against the COVID-19 crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill in June by certifying it as urgent legislation.
Opposition from the minority lawmakers including the Makabayan bloc objected to the Act’s vague definition of terrorism and provisions that violate the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. They also worry about how the law will be weaponized to suppress critics and citizens alike.
Bachelet said that the passage of the anti-terror measure intensifies concerns about the “blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality, and terrorism.”
“It could also affect humanitarian work in the country “hindering support to vulnerable and marginalized communities”, she added.
“So I would urge the President to refrain from signing the law and to initiate the broad-based consultation process to draft legislation that can effectively prevent and counter violent extremism, but which contains some safeguards to prevent this misuse against people engaged in peaceful criticism and advocacy,” Bachelet said, adding that her office is “ready to assist” in such review.
President Duterte has not yet acted on signing or vetoing the Anti-Terrorism Act but it will lapse into law on July 9 even if he does not sign. (davaotoday.com)