DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A women’s group here on Thursday assailed the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007, saying it is “worse” than the martial law in curtailing people’s basic rights and freedom.
As part of the commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Month, Gabriela-Southern Mindanao Region along with other women’s organizations held an indignation rally at Freedom Park, Davao City after the approval of Senate Bill 1083, or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“Under the guise of combatting terrorism in the country, the bill gives unbridled powers to state forces such as the PNP [Philippine National Police] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines],” said Gabriela-SMR chair Cora Espinosa.
“The bill’s deliberately obscure definition of what a terrorist and terrorist act are put any civilian at risk,” she added.
Weapon to stifle dissent
Lawyers groups such as the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) explained that the anti-terrorism bill “expands the already-vague definition for “terrorism” under the Human Security Act.
The group said that the amendment does not provide clear parameters that could limit its application” as it gives “undue” discretion to the military, law-enforcers, prosecutors, and judges in determining what acts may qualify as “terrorism”.
The bill also broadens the powers to law enforcement agencies, enabling them to conduct “lengthier surveillance operations, wiretap and record private communications, access databases, examine bank records, and freeze the assets of persons and organizations suspected of financing terrorism or having connections with alleged terrorists.”
Under the measure, military personnel and other law-enforcement agents will also be allowed to carry out warrantless arrests and detain suspected terrorists for an initial period of up to 14 days, extendable for another 10 days.
Furthermore, NUPL warned that SB 1083 allows for the immediate tagging of an organization as a terrorist or outlawed group, with no prior notice to that organization, no opportunity for it to respond, and no hearing for its side to be heard.
Gabriela’s Espinosa also said that even while the bill was still pending, several activists and political dissenters were already labeled by the government as “terrorists” for asserting their rights.
Many progressive groups, including Gabriela, have repeatedly denounced the red-tagging of their members, with state agents and agencies accusing them of being “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Even journalists are being tagged as “communist-terrorists”.
Espinosa explained that what many Filipinos are fighting against are the Duterte administration’s anti-people policies, resulting in the worsening crisis in the country.
On the 109th International Women’s Day commemoration Day on March 8, Espinosa stressed that Filipino women are still burdened by several issues including widespread poverty, lack of jobs, contractualization, low wages, and increasing prices of basic goods, among others. (davaotoday.com)