Duterte defends highly contested anti-terrorism law before UN
President Rodrigo Duterte virtually addresses the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, on September 22, 2020, in New York.
Presidential Communications Operations Office
Duterte defends highly contested anti-terrorism law before UN
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 23, 2020 - 11:29am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte defended the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the highly contested law at the Philippines’ Supreme Court, saying it is a “crucial” legal framework before the United Nations General Assembly.

In his first speech before the international body, Duterte said the Philippines will continue to protect human rights of the Filipino people, including from illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism — this, as he also accused “a number of interest groups” of “weaponizing” human rights.

Duterte also defended the contentious Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the law he signed early in July and in the middle of a pandemic.

He stressed that “terrorism looms large,” and his government will do everything to protect the people from terrorism.

“The Marawi siege, where foreign terrorist fighters took part, taught us that an effective legal framework is crucial. Our 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act shores up the legal framework by focusing on both terrorism and the usual response to it,” he said in his pre-recorded speech.

The president also said that the enactment of the law was pursuant to Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

“Most importantly, we remain committed to rebuild stricken communities and address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism in my country,” Duterte added.

READ: FULL TEXT: President Duterte addresses the 75th UN General Assembly

But UN’s own rights chief Michelle Bachelet has earlier called Duterte to veto the measure, prior to his signing, as she expressed concerns “about blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.”

Bachelet also said the anti-terrorism bill—now a law—could have further chilling effect on human rights and humanitarian work, which can hamper support for vulnerable communities.

READ: UN rights chief raises anti-terror bill's 'chilling effect' on humanitarian work

The Bangsamoro experience

The UN rights chief’s concerns were echoed in the dozens of legal challenges to the ATA’s constitutionality pending before the Supreme Court, that counts groups from Mindanao lawyers and community leaders among petitioners. They stressed they are at the heart of the struggle against terrorism.

In a forum prior to Duterte’s signing of the law, leaders from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said that the government must address “open wounds” like the delayed rehabilitee of Marawi City to ease resentment at the government and curb recruitment by terrorist groups.

READ: Bangsamoro officials: Address 'open wounds' to curb terrorism

Rep. Mujiv Hataman (Basilan), former regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said that lingering resentment over past atrocities in Mindanao led to the rise of groups like the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He mentioned the Jabidah Massacre in 1968, the burning of Jolo and the Palimbang Massacre in 1974 as among the incidents that led many to take up arms against the government.

 Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the Bangsamoro parliament meanwhile said in the same forum: "Until now, these are open wounds. There has been no acceptance from the state that these happened. No apologies. In fact, there are still some who deny that the Jabidah Massacre even happened. So, this does not help."

Mindanaons' petitions

Hataman is one of petitioners against the ATA, although their pleading has yet to reach the SC and be docketed. He is joined by Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan (Anak Mindanao party-list), Muslim lawyers and a preacher of Islam in their petition.

The Hataman petition cited growing Islamophobia, as it pointed out that exclaiming “Allahu Akbar,” meant to praise Allah; pointing an index finger to testify oneness with Allah and even possessing the Quran may be seen as indoctrination or even as allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — bases which can be used to designate them as terrorists.

RELATED: Citing prejudice against their communities, Moro lawyers join fight against anti-terrorism law at SC

A separate petition filed with lawyers from the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates meanwhile raised “Abu Sayyaf Group-tagging” of Moros. Among them is petitioner Nazr Dilangaldn, an engineer in Cotabato City, was detained for five days on the basis of an “unverified list containing more than 700 names of suspects in the Marawi siege.”

He was later told he is being pointed to being an alleged key recruiter of the Maute-Abu Sayyaf. He languished in jail for two years before the case was dismissed against him.

As of September 22, official SC records show at least 35 petitions have been filed, while two more, submitted through registered mail, are yet to be docketed by the court. — with reports from Jonathan de Santos

ANTI-TERRORISM LAW RODRIGO DUTERTE UNITED NATIONS
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