Duterte, DOJ, Philippine Supreme Court: Junk the Anti-Terrorism Law

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Department of Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines

Why is this petition important?

On June 9, the Philippine Congress and Senate passed the Anti-Terror Bill. A bill so horrifying, even its authors say that "they'll no longer need martial law" if this bill passes. Now it is sitting on Pres. Duterte's desk awaiting his action.

In the Philippines, a bill may become a law, even without the President’s signature, if the President takes no action within 30 days from receipt in his office.

The clock is ticking. Let us demand that President Duterte immediately veto the Anti-Terror Bill before July 8, 2020 (US time). If not, the Anti-Terror Bill shall automatically become law and will plunge the Philippines under perpetual martial law. Help us stop the Anti-Terror Bill. Let's not allow democracy to die in the Philippines.

What is the Anti-Terrorism Bill?

The Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 was passed by the Senate to “prevent and stop” terrorist attacks in the country by directly targeting individuals who are profiled to be most likely to join considered terrorist groups or perform such acts.

If this bill is passed into law, the executive branch of the government and its forces will have the absolute power in defining what constitutes the definition of terrorism, who are to be considered terrorists, and what to do with these individuals. The bill empowers an appointed Anti-Terror Council to assume judicial power to indict citizens not just based on commitment of the act of terroism but also the intent. Therefore, any suspicion by state institutions such as the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is enough basis for being considered terrorists.

The terror bill also allows police, law enforcement, and military personnel duly authorized by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC)—a council that the state/president will select/appoint—to designate groups and individuals as "terrorists” and carry out warrantless arrests without incurring liability under Article 125, or the Revised Penal Code. Also, the allowable period of detention has been extended to 14 working days, extendable by 10 days, which is against the Philippine Constitution.

With this bill the government is in full position to kill dissent and opposition.

What are its implications?

1. Government’s tagging of opposition/dissenters as organizations affiliated with terrorist groups

  • Any member of tagged organizations can be detained or jailed without the chance to appeal

  • Anyone suspected to be a terrorist can be imprisoned with a non-bailable life sentence

2. Absolute power for state institutions like the PNP-AFP, permitting violations of the constitution and human rights

  • Despite the tainted reputation of the AFP-PNP in terms of intelligence, credibility, and intention, the bill still assumes that they are the most rational institution to handle definitions such as terrorism, terrorist acts, etc. Practically, they'll become the "judge, jury and executioner."

  • No check and balance for the AFP-PNP. There is an absolute monopoly of power in the hands of Duterte, just like what happened during Martial Law.

  • Surveillance of suspects and interception and recording of communications will be allowed for 60 days, even on the basis of mere suspicion. The person wiretapped need not be informed.

  • Proscription of any individual, organization, association, or group of people shall proceed ex parte. This means that the person/group involved need not be informed of a petition proscribing them as "terrorists," and they would have no realistic means to challenge this in the courts.

3. Paralysis of critical and progressive activities

  • The Anti-Terror Bill will create a chilling effect. Organizers and participants of events or activities that may fall under the overly broad definition of terrorism by the government can be sanctioned. This effect also happened during Martial Law, prohibiting various organizations to function.

4. No one is safe, even Filipinos outside of the Philippines

  • As the AFP-PNP takes control of power and tyranny sits over the Malacañang Palace, they can label anyone as terrorists by virtue of an order, and with the cover of legality.

  • The Anti-Terror Law will also implicate Filipinos living overseas who are critical of and/or express dissenting views on Philippine government policies.

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To: Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Department of Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned, are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte and his Department of Justice, and The Supreme Court to immediately rescind and junk Republic Act no. 11479 also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. We are deeply concerned that this law will trample on the rights and freedoms that the Filipino people fought so hard for, eliminate any democratic space, silence criticism from Filipinos abroad covered by the Bill, and further worsen the already appalling human rights conditions in the Philippines.

Amidst a global pandemic and health crisis, worsening economic conditions and loss of livelihood for the Filipino people, the Anti-Terror Law is not only unnecessary but also seems to show the misplaced priorities of your administration. We urge you to heed the call of the Filipino people: Junk the Anti-Terror Law now.