Activist groups troop to University of the Philippines Diliman to oppose the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020
Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV
Business groups oppose anti-terrorism bill 'in strongest possible terms'
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - June 5, 2020 - 6:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Eight business groups on Friday joined a rising chorus of opposition to the controversial anti-terrorism bill.

“We, the undersigned, are united in voicing our opposition in the strongest possible terms to the enactment at this time of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020…,” the businessmen said in a joint statement.

“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is highly divisive – because it poses clear and present danger to human rights enshrined in our Constitution – at a time when our nation needs to come together as one,” they stated.

The statement was issued by the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Judicial Reform Initiative, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, Philippine Business for Education and Subdivision and Housing Developers Association Inc.

The groups said that while they “fully appreciate” government efforts to secure the country’s national security, existing laws are sufficient to deal with present threats and as such “do not require urgent new legislation.” 

Issues surrounding the bill, the said, have divided the society at a time the government is banking on a whole-of-nation approach for a long-term fix to the pandemic. Instead of the anti-terrorism bill, the groups said it would do the government well to focus its energy on addressing “multiple socioeconomic shocks” due to COVID-19.

Over the past week, the bill grabbed the headlines from the much-criticized government pandemic response after Duterte certified House Bill 6875 as urgent on Monday. The following day, his allies in the Lower House hastily passed the bill on second reading, and on its final reading on Wednesday, sidelining other vital measures such as economic stimulus bills.

The Senate already passed the counterpart measure— Senate Bill 1083— last February, and the House of Representatives adopting the Senate’s version means it would only take Duterte’s signature for the bill to get enacted. 

Apart from businessmen, various groups from the academe, human rights causes, celebrities and even lawyers have expressed opposition to the anti-terrorism bill due to what they said is a broad definition of terrorism that would potentially stifle dissent. On social media, #JunkTerrorBill has been trending on Twitter since Wednesday. 

“In these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, what we need is national unity. We are all suffering and fighting for survival: businesses are closing down, people are losing their jobs, those who still have jobs find it impossible to find safe transportation to work, our children are going hungry and the continuity of their education is under threat,” businessmen said.

“We strongly urge our national leaders and the private sector to be focused fully at this time on what really matters,” they added.

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