Citing danger to organized labor, trade unionists join legal fight vs Anti-Terrorism Law
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights said they filed the petition on July 8.
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Facebook page

Citing danger to organized labor, trade unionists join legal fight vs Anti-Terrorism Law

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - July 9, 2020 - 6:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Trade unionists assailed the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, citing the danger the law poses on labor rights defenders.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and Pro-labor Legal Assistance Center filed a Petition for Certiorari against Republic Act 11479. Like previously filed pleadings, they also sought for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the new anti-terrorism law.

The labor groups raised concern on how the anti-terrorism law would affect unionists and labor rights defenders, they said on a statement.

According to its Facebook page, the CTUHR is "an independent Non Governmental Organization based in Quezon City, Philippines, engaged in documentation and monitoring of human rights violations committed against workers. It conducts research, information and supports advocacy campaign for workers' rights promotion and protection."

The trade unionists’ petition was filed on Wednesday and is the seventh legal challenge against the contentious new anti-terrorism law. A full copy of their pleading has yet to be made public as of this story’s posting.

In a statement on their Facebook page, the CTUHR pointed out that the Philippines has consistently been tagged among the most dangerous countries for workers.

RELATED: Police plan to prevent unions from organizing hit

In its 2019 Global Rights Index, the International Trade Union Confedation flagged the “violent attacks and intimidation” against workers and trade unionists. It also noted that “protests were brutally repressed by police forces in an attempt by the government forces to suppress political dissent.”

“Because of the vague definition of terrorism and the absolute power it gives to state forces, this law can definitely be used against the labor movement,” CTUHR wrote.

“Throughout history, unionists and labor rights defenders have been [persecuted] by filing trumped-up charges against them, red-tagging, accusing them of being rebels or terrorists, and other forms of harassment. This law will worsen the struggles of workers in pushing for their rights and demands,” they added.

READ: Framers of the Constitution join legal challenge against Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

Anti-terrorism law’s potential ‘chilling effect’ on humanitarian work

No less than United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned against the potential “chilling effect” on the anti-terrorism law on humanitarian work in the country.

Bachelet said last week: “The recent passage of the new Anti-Terrorism Act heightens our concerns about the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.”

UN special rappoteurs last week also wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte, raising concern on the law’s “designation of civil society and humanitarian organizations as ‘terrorists’ in the context of ongoing discrimination directed at religious and other minorities, human rights defenders and political opponents.”

Environmental groups meanwhile said the law could aggravate the attacks on Filipino environmentalists protecting the climate and country’s forests and seas.

“The provisions of the proposed bill alone are telling of how it could exacerbate widespread human rights violations experienced by environmentalists on the ground from both private and state actors,” the Center of Energy, Ecology and Development said last month.

The fear that environmental workers may be mistaken for terrorists or rebels is not unfounded. In November 2010, botanist Leonard Co and his two assistants were killed in Kananga, Leyte. Although the Army claimed they were killed in a shootout, the Commission on Human Rights later found that soldiers had mistaken the botanists for rebels.

The SC on Tuesday ordered the government to answer the first four petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. They are given ten days to file their Comment upon receipt of notice. — with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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