Art by Neal P. Corpus
Here lies the death of our liberty
Bea Amador (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Slowly but surely, we are being stripped of our humanity. It started a long, long time ago, when the Spaniards came to the shores of Cebu, and was perpetuated by the different brands of evil that have held our country’s democracy in their bloody hands since then. We have long struggled as a people — from the crutches of foreign rule, from the dirty politics of the governments that came after, from a dictatorship that killed thousands and tanked our economy, and always, always, from the selfish wants of those who wield power by trampling on our rights. We are a nation of people who are very much acquainted with social injustices, and now the evils are staring us straight in our faces with their incompetence, lies and apathy. And just when we think that we have hit rock bottom, the government continues to dig deeper.

Point being: the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was approved by the Congress after just three days of deliberations which included a muddled process for amendments and an even questionable voting process. Three months into lockdown, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that continues to exhaust our health sector while also revealing the inefficient systems rigged against the poor, Duterte deemed this bill as urgent — even though the number of positive cases for COVID-19 continues to rise as a direct result of the lack of government response. Our calls for mass testing and contact tracing have fallen on deaf ears, and up to this day, there is still no concrete plan for our country to combat the coronavirus. Billions of dollars have been borrowed to fund the relief for COVID-19, and yet we see no urgency and accountability. Instead, we were given a very tangible threat to our human rights in the form of the Anti-Terrorism Act. 

The Anti-Terrorism Act, ironically, incites terror by threatening our freedoms that are spelled out in black and white in the 1987 Constitution. Penned by a handful of congressmen with the goal of repealing the Human Security Act of 2007, this bill is a redundancy written in poor taste: it penalizes crimes that are already penalized by existing laws, while also broadening the definition of a terrorist with vague terms subject to interpretation. With this bill, any person or organization deemed by the state as a terrorist can be subject to warrantless detainment and arrest, through procedural shortcuts that undermine the rule of law and the power of the judiciary. It legalizes the culture of police brutality and corruption by allowing the very same people who have historically proven themselves to be self-serving to determine who is a terrorist or not. 

There is no question here: terrorism is wrong and should have no place in our country. But with this administration’s long history of abusing vague laws — just think of the 30,000 extrajudicial deaths from Duterte’s Drug War — this bill feels like the final nail in the coffin of our democracy. Even before this bill was an issue, activists had always been prime targets for red-tagging and unlawful arrests that usually resulted in disappearances and deaths. The government has always gaslighted our fears, and has tried to project an illusion of safety by saying that only real terrorists should be afraid — a script that we know all too well. They made the same statements when the drug war was first implemented, but if there’s anything that we have learned after four years of extrajudicial killings, it’s that nobody is truly safe from the hands of those who “serve and protect.”

Day by day, this administration continues to put a chokehold on us, silencing our dissent, shoving us into a corner of obedience that they believe is the only way to solve the deeply-ingrained systemic problems in our society. While the greater percentage of our population continues to struggle amidst the pandemic, the government has shown us that their priorities lie elsewhere — that is, in making sure that the status quo is preserved. That those on top will remain on top, while the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves, to choose whether it will be the pandemic, or poverty, or bullets from the police that finally kill us.

It’s an overt disrespect to us, who pay our taxes, who have built this country on our backs, that this government does not even bother to listen to our demands. We have been busy this week, protesting in the streets, calling and emailing our congress representatives and asking them to turn their yeses into noes, but in the middle of the night, while the country slept, the Senate President and the House Speaker signed the bill, and immediately forwarded it to Malacañang. The ball is now in Duterte’s court, and frankly, it will come as no surprise if he signs the bill into law without even batting an eye.

Fear, truly, is what they want to instill in us. They want us to second-guess our demands for our rights, to tremble at even the thought of speaking out when we are being wronged. This unstable political climate coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic became the perfect opportunity for them to reach deeper into our pockets and loot us of our money and rights in order to create a stronghold for their selfishness. They are cementing this fascist regime by writing new laws that impede on the constitutional rights of every Filipino, desperately trying to contain our activism by calling us terrorists for simply wanting to be treated humanely. 

As the decision to pass the Anti-Terror Bill goes to the hands of the President, we wait with bated breath for the turning point in this prevailing battle against tyranny. We are not afraid — we are braver and stronger now more than ever — and by and by we will continue to rise up to the injustices of this administration. The real terrorists are those who continue to treat the Filipino people as nothing but pawns in their pathetic power plays. The real terrorists are those who shoot their guns at peaceful protesters. The real terrorists are those who deliberately neglect their responsibilities to the Filipino people.

ANTI-TERRORISM ACT
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