Citing potential abuse, Makabayan party-lists seek repeal of Anti-Terrorism Act

Citing potential abuse, Makabayan party-lists seek repeal of Anti-Terrorism Act
Activist groups troop to University of the Philippines Diliman to oppose the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Christopher Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition party-lists have filed a bill to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act, which they said was draconian and prone to abuse is being used to threaten people and groups — including news organizations — on unproven allegations of terrorist links.

In filing the bill, Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan party-list), Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) and Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) said "it is high time for Congress to do its part to ensure that this bill will not have the capability to harm any other person in the country."

The bill is unlikely to prosper at the House of Representatives, which has historically been dominated by members aligned with or supportive of the sitting president.

The Makabayan lawmakers said the ATA contradicts the human rights treaties and agreements the country is a signatory to. They also said that the definition of what counts as "terrorism" is unclear even as the law allows the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate groups and people as terrorists.

READ: Cheat sheet: Petitioners argue for the nullification of anti-terrorism law 

"Two years into the Terror Law's enactment since July 3, 2020, Kabataan views mounting cases of state agents weaponizing the law to threaten and imprison innocent civilians on top of producing dubious terror-tagging proscription lists as vindication of initial fears of petitioners and many Filipino citizens," Kabataan said in a statement on Sunday.

The ATA was used last month to justify a National Telecommunications Commission order to block access to websites that the National Security Council said were affiliated with or support the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Websites of alternative media organizations, journalists and academics, and local activits groups were among dozens of pages blocked. 

Hermogenes Esperon Jr., national security adviser at the time, claimed that these websites were affiliated with terrorist organizations but did not cite evidence. His letter of request to the NTC failed to cite even the specific articles of the ATA that he claims these websites violated

Bill to repeal

Among the issues cited for the repeal of the ATA was the broad definition of terrorism, also noting that "mere suspicion can be used by state authorities to criminalize even dissent."  

"Given the broad ‘definition of terrorism,’ the power of the ATC to designate a person or a group as a ‘terrorist’ can result in terrorist-tagging and arbitrary detention," the party-lists said in the explanatory note of their bill.

Kabataan, ACT Teachers, and Gabriela said implementation of the law so far has left a "chilling effect" on expressing dissent and criticism of government in fear of retaliation for merely expressing their opinions. — Kaycee Valmonte


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