June 10, 2020
A Grave Concern and Imminent Threat:
Malaya Movement Statement on Anti-Terror Bill
Last week, as the House of Representatives in the Philippines fast-tracked the approval of HB 6875, otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, we in the Malaya Movement see this is as a cause for grave concern and an imminent threat to civil and democratic rights in the Philippines. Our main worries for the threat the bill poses lie in the overly broad definitions of “terrorism”, the specter of a police state, and the implications for Filipinos abroad.
Overly Broad Definitions of “Terrorism”
Under current anti-terrorism legislation (Human Security Act of 2007), acts such as murder, arson, kidnapping, or rebellion among others are already indicated as predicate crimes to terrorism, but the new bill further widens the scope under general categories that leave many human rights groups, lawyers, and legislators unsettled that unnecessarily broadening the definition of “terrorism” may open the door to abusive interpretations by the government.
Under Section 9 of HB 6875, “inciting to terrorism” can be committed “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations of the same” and is punishable by 12 years in prison. As it’s written, it is not improbable that posters, placards, social media posts, speeches made at a rally, or even perhaps political T-shirts can all be put under scrutiny and suspicion.
While Section 4 of the bill seemingly provides protections for “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights…”, the following added clause, “…which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety” leaves critics to believe that this second clause may be broadly interpreted and abused by state forces to justify the arrests of Filipinos exercising these same civil and political rights.
The Specter of a Police State
Provisions in the bill will empower the government and state security forces with extraordinary latitude to conduct warrantless arrests of suspected individuals or organizations, detention without formal charges for up to 24 days (8 times longer than currently allowed under standing law) and before they must be presented to a judicial authority, and surveillance for up to 90 days during which time state forces may access and monitor personal information, bank records, and private communications, as well as have the authority to freeze private assets.
The bill violates the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s guarantee to due process and grants expanded executive powers to different government entities normally reserved for the courts and judicial branch. Furthermore, the bill weakens any promise to hold state security forces accountable for unfoundedly targeting and accusing individuals or organizations.
If enacted into law, the bill will revoke the current guarantee to compensate suspected individuals P500,000 per day of detention for unfounded charges of terrorism.
Implications for Filipinos Abroad
In the accompanying senate bill, SB 1083, passed in February earlier this year, measures were written to “cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad…[and] establishes Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines…” as expressed in a senate press release after the approval of SB 1083. With this pronouncement, Filipinos at home and those in the diaspora may all fall subject to new anti-terrorism law.
Section 10 of both HB 6875 and SB 1083 details that recruitment, propaganda, or providing materials support to “terrorists” can all be charged to Filipinos living abroad, but questions of legality and legitimacy of this new far-reaching jurisdictional power of the Philippine government over international waters remain. With the reports of a suspected Philippine National Police outpost based in the San Francisco Philippine consulate, we wonder if this is the beginning step to surveil and monitor critical voices living in the United States.
Human Rights Under Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte’s political career is marked by violence and brutality, and has been the subject of investigation and criticism from international human rights groups for over the past decade. In a press release detailing a recently released report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), the following quote is how they characterize the grave human rights situation under Duterte: “a heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations in the Philippines, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent…persistent impunity and formidable barriers to accessing justice need to be urgently addressed.”
As with Martial Law, those hardest hit by draconian laws such as the Anti-Terror Bill will undoubtedly be poor and working class Filipinos who already suffer from the ever worsening economic and social conditions brought by Duterte’s false promises. Activists, advocates, or faith leaders who lift up the issues of poor farmers/peasants and working class Filipinos will be arrested, detained, and even killed in the government’s vain attempt to decisively silence the rising clamour of dissatisfaction and longstanding demands for genuine employment opportunities or accessible and quality social services to name a few.
It only takes a brief review of Duterte’s first four years to understand what terror the Filipino people have already endured under his strongman presidency, and what further terror awaits if the Anti-Terror Bill is enacted into law.
A Call to Action
The Malaya Movement opposes the Anti-Terror Act and any legislation, policy, or government order that threatens to weaken or thoroughly dismiss the civil, political, or democratic rights ensured to all Filipinos in the 1987 Philippine Constitution and Bill of Rights. We recognize that these freedoms were not given, but won time and time again and defended throughout the past 122 years dating back to the Philippine Revolution.
On the occasion of Philippine Independence Day, June 12th, 2020, Malaya Movement calls on all Filipinos to once again take up the historical fight to defend the freedoms so many courageous and justice-loving Filipinos struggled for against the might of colonial masters and dictators. Malaya Movement holds firm to our commitment of seeking a Philippines that is more free and just without the terror of dictatorship and tyranny.
There are many ways that you can participate:
Oppose the Anti-Terror Act!
- Hold an action at the Philippine Embassy or your local Philippine Consulate!
- Proposed date: June 12 (in honor of Independence Day)
- Please inform the Malaya Secretariat if you’re planning one
- Publish statements and open letters to register your opposition
- Phone or email your concerns. You can organize a phone barrage or an email drive to the following:
- Malacanang: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Philippine Embassy (Political & Legislative Section): email@example.com, 202.467.9379
- Philippine Consulates: Find your local consulate info here
- Create art and media to inform your community
- Songs, poems, and graphic art are all creative ways to inspire you local Filipino community to get involved
- Please tag @MalayaMovement if posting online
- Hashtag #JunkTerrorBill
Call your local US legislators!
- Ask them to publicly denounce the Anti-Terror Act either through a tweet, social media post, or at maximum by official statement.
- Inform them about the $2 Billion arms sale to the Philippines, and ask if they are willing to oppose that as well
- Inform them about the Philippine Human Rights Act campaign, and ask if they are willing to publicly support proposed legislation to combat fascism and dictatorship in the Philippines or at maximum if they are willing to co-sponsor the bill
Join Malaya Movement
What is a movement without people? Join an existing chapter in your area, or ask firstname.lastname@example.org about how to start one!
Junk the Terror Bill Now!
Uphold Democracy and Freedom!
No to Dictatorship and Fascism!
Long Live the Filipino People!