Student leaders and HR workers ponder on the damage wrought and the blood spilled by the highly contested Terror Law.
One year ago, the hotly contested Anti-Terrorism Act was signed into law. With its purpose of replacing the Human Security Act of 2007 and the perceived vague and questionable provisions as a means to “fight terrorism,” this law eventually left a trail of blood in its wake.
As July 18, the date of its implementation, draws inches closer, groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Laguna, Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK), and Youth Advocate for Peace with Justice (YAPJUST) among others recounted the lives lost and ruined by the colloquially named “Terror Law.”
In the YAPJUST-hosted “Kapehan Para sa Karapatan: Pagbalikwas sa Isang Taong Lagim ng Anti-Terror Law” webinar, speakers spoke about the looming threats brought on by the law. One of the speakers was BAYAN-Metro Manila Chairperson Raymond Palatino, who recalled how 37 different petitions highlighted the law’s capability to silence critics.
“Ang sabi ng gobyerno kung hindi ka terorista, wala ka dapat ikatakot sa terror law, pero tignan naman natin ang mga naghain ng petisyon laban sa Anti-Terror Law, 37 sets of petition [sic] laban [dito]. Ibig sabihin, itong mga petitioner, hindi lang po sila mga aktibista or human rights workers, marami sa kanila ay galing sa media, artista, abogado, may mga netizen, influencers, mga manggagawa, kababaihan,” Palatino worried.
Further, he argued that the law’s vague definition of terrorism may be exploited to link activism and criticism with terrorism. A fear that came to pass in light of several progressives being arrested for holding peaceful protests, with some examples being the cases of Cabuyao 11 and Cebu 8.
YAPJUST Spokesperson John Peter Angelo Garcia said that “isa sa mga pangangalagaan ng administrasyon ngayong papalapit na SONA at eleksyon ay ang opinyon ng publiko tungkol sa kanila at sa mga ginawa nila. Mas pinalalang human rights violations ang naranasan natin sa nakaraang limang taong pamumuno ni Duterte ngunit dahil sa Anti-Terror Law, nagagamit ng estado ang batas para patahimikin ang mga mamamayan at para bumuo ng public opinion na pabor sa kanila.”
“... mainam na ‘yung mga ganitong polisiya ay binabantayan pa rin natin kasi hindi natin alam, sa iba’t ibang polisiya ay kinukulong na tayo sa isang de facto martial law.” he added.
Meanwhile, BAYAN-Laguna Spokesperson Justin Umali, in light of the recent commemoration of the Philippine-American Friendship Day, suggests that this push for counter-terrorism has imperialist ties. According to him, this is specifically with the alleged agendas of the United States government.
“At the end of the day, usapin parin ito ng ekonomiya o kung sino ‘yung nakikinabang sa ekonomiya natin. […] Ang imperyalismo bilang sistema ay kinukuha ‘yung natural resources ng bansa natin para mapakinabangan ng mga imperyalistang bansa katulad ng US, at kasabay nito ay pinapanatili talaga na atrasado at independent ang mga bansa katulad ng Pilipinas sa economic system ng United States,” Umali explained.
Terror by the numbers
“Sa katunayan, simula nang masabatas ito hanggang December 2020, 51 ang extrajudicial killings, tapos mahigit 200 itong illegal arrest, at mayroong 11 restrictions sa mga violent dispersals and counting pa mga ito,” KARAPATAN Deputy Secretary-General Roneo Clamor summarized the one year of terror in the YAPJUST talk.
BAYAN-Laguna expanded on this claim, saying that there have been about 4,509 documented incidents of human rights violations in Laguna alone following the law’s passage. The majority were reported instances of harassment and intimidation by state agencies, primarily the police and military.
They also said that 4,509 instances represent the vast majority of human rights breaches in the province. In Laguna, at least 5,776 incidents of human rights abuses were documented.
“Linalantad ng datos ang tunay na layunin ng Terror Law. Binigyan nito ng kapangyarihan ang estado na maghasik ng pananakot at lagim laban sa mga progresibong kritiko ng rehimen. Hindi lamang aktibista ang target nito: kahit ang mga unyonista, kababaihan, estudyante, at kahit sino na may opinyon ay naging target ng batas,” BAYAN-Laguna explained.
Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) Spokesperson Kyle Salgado also asserted that there were cases of human rights violations even before Duterte took office; the only real difference here is that under his administration, they create laws in which lawmakers are under Duterte’s alliance.
“… dito nga lang sa Southern Tagalog, umabot na sa 120 ang political prisoners, even before President Duterte. Ang kaibahan lang talaga dito sa Duterte Administration, nagpapasa sila ng batas, na obviously, ang lawmakers na ito ay nasa loob ng paksyon ni Duterte sa loob ng gobyerno.”
Solidifying this claim would be the recent deaths of political prisoners Joseph Canlas and Jesus Alegre. Both of whom died from various illnesses while serving time for trumped-up charges, with reports suggesting that they were uncared for by prison staff.
Even before the reign of Terror Law, a report from the United Nations last June 2020 showed that at least 8,600 Filipinos were killed under Duterte’s war on drugs alone, prompting Duterte’s critics to question the passing of this particular law, which essentially endangers the lives of many Filipinos.
BAYAN-Laguna went on to say that since the Anti-Terror Law was passed, there has been a rise in murder cases, most of which are connected to activism and politics. Ten of the 21 extrajudicial deaths reported in June 2020 have occurred after July 3, the date in which the bill was signed into law.
They then highlighted how the murders of Brgy. San Antonio, Kalayaan Captain Froilan “Kawing” Reyes, Los Baños Mayor Caesar Perez, labor leader Pang. Dandy Miguel, and recently minor Johndy Maglinte Helis serve as testaments to the law’s pitfalls.
(RELATED STORIES: Lider manggagawa Dandy Miguel, patay matapos pagbabarilin sa Calamba, Bumagsak na ang Narra: Los Baños mourns Mayor Perez’s death, Laguna barangay captain slain due to ‘progressive advocacies’ – HR rights group)
They also recalled how much demolitions have become frequent in the pandemic, despite such acts supposedly being prohibited by the national government.
“Kapansin-pansin din ang malaking bilang ng mga iligal na demolisyon sa probinsya simula nang ipinasa ang Terror Law. Ginamit ni Duterte at ng mga kaibigan nitong negosyante ang pandemya at ang mga mala-Martial Law na mga batas upang isulong ang kanilang sariling interes,” BAYAN-Laguna slammed.
(RELATED STORIES: Sta. Rosa woman waited by the rubble of her ruined home for her jailed husband, Mga kabataan sa Hacienda Yulo, nananawagan para sa ligtas, de-kalidad na edukasyon sa gitna ng patuloy na panghaharass)
Karapatan Secretary-General Roneo Clamore then lamented the difficulties that human rights workers face on a daily basis. These workers have also encountered numerous attacks before and after the signing of the law.
“…marami pa kaming kasamahan na pinaslang dahil lamang sa aming gawain, pagsasadokumento ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao, paglalantad ng mga ito… kasama yan sa human rights work, ilan pa sa mga kasamahan namin ay nakapiit sa iba’t ibang kulungan sa bansa dahil lamang sa mga gawa-gawang kaso, “ he said.
“Sa madaling salita, bahagi ito ng aming pakikibaka para sa karapatang pantao,” he added, emphasizing their ongoing fight for human rights against Duterte’s totalitarian rule.
Palatino likewise decried the continued harassment cases.
“Ang iba’t ibang pwersa na sinusuportahan ng estado o state-backed forces ay nasa likod ng ganitong klaseng mga atake to spread hate [and] to spread online violence. Itong fake news [at] red-tagging, hindi lamang sa online ‘yan kundi dumudulo sa karahasan.”
In the days leading to July 18, critics of the law continued to call for its junking.
“For the longest time, fellow constituents across different units of the University have been red-tagged by the national administration. This action has long been putting the students, faculty, and staff at risk of being harassed by state forces such as AFP and the PNP. To these institutions, activism equates to terrorism – a logic that puts activists in harm’s way and vulnerable to state-sponsored attacks,” UPLB University Student Council (USC) said in a public statement.
Meanwhile, BAYAN-Laguna closed their statement, once more slamming the Terror Law’s incapability to uphold individual rights.
“Sa huling pagsusuma, walang bentaheng naibigay sa mamamayan ang Terror Law. Naging daluyan lamang ito para sa dagdag pananakot at pasismo ng estado. Ginawa nitong ligal ang mga iligal na gawain ng rehimen at lalo nitong inuk-ok ang demokrasya ng bansa natin. Naging hudyat ito para sa pasistang puting lagim ng estado na tinatago niya sa tabing ng ‘seguridad at kaligtasan,’” the group reiterated. [P]
Photos by Sonya Mariella Castillo
Layout by Patrick Josh Atayde