Envi groups fear anti-terror bill stifles dialogue and citizen action

Jun. 12, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Environment groups here joined the growing call urging President Duterte not to sign the Anti-Terrorism Act which they say will affect even their advocacy for environmental protection.

In separate statements released Friday on Independence Day, Greenpeace Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition called for the scrapping of the act known also as House Bill 6875 which seeks to amend the Human Security Act of 2007.

Greenpeace Philippines said in its statement how the bill will suppress people’s participation and dialogue to address their issues on the environment.

“There is a real danger that the bill will stifle citizen participation and critical dialogue necessary in a diverse and inclusive society,” said Khevin Yu, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner.

Yu added, “At this time when the country is facing multiple crises, we believe that we need leadership that is inclusive and just in its decision-making and a healthy political environment that encourages opposing views.”

“The needs and voices of communities and sectors struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, of the climate emergency and of poverty, require the urgent focus of the government. We urge the President to heed the Filipino people and their calls for the respect for rights and justice, and veto the anti-terror bill,” he added.

EcoWaste Coalition also echoed the same concern that the act will restrict people’s rights including their advocacy for the environment.

“We, like many others, are wary that the approval of the anti-terrorism bill will affect the legitimate advocacies and services by the broad civil society, including grassroots communities and groups campaigning and organizing against environmentally destructive and polluting economic activities,” said Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator.

The group cited section 4 of Article III of the Constitution that states “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

While the bill says that “terrorism shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights,” Lucero said the overboard and vague definition of what constitutes terrorism under the proposed legislation can stifle the basic rights that the Constitution itself seeks to protect.

“The bill’s all-encompassing definition of terrorism will make it open to abuse and misuse,” she said.

She added the constitutional rights being eroded are essential components of the rights of the people to health and to be a balanced and healthful ecology.

“What is at stake are sacred constitutional rights that we hold dear. We urge President Rodrigo Roa Duterte not to sign and to veto the bill that he has earlier certified as ‘urgent’ in deference to the critical views aired by activists, lawyers, legislators, journalists, educators, businessmen, bishops, beauty queens, artists, netizens, and other concerned citizens,” Lucero said.

Lucero said: “As the anti-terrorism bill has only divided us and created added anxiety among our people, amid the country’s efforts to rise and recover from the deleterious impacts of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to public health and the economy, we appeal to the president to bin the distracting legislative measure.”

“We further appeal to our government and our people to focus on what really matters: an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID recovery plan that will address livelihood, health, climate, waste, and toxic woes, and ensure positive health, environmental and economic outcomes, especially for the vulnerable members of the society,” she added. (davaotoday.com)

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