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Anti-‘Terror Bill’ campaigners vow to continue protests

04 July 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Filipino community groups in HK have vowed to keep protesting against the anti-terror law

Critics of the anti-terrorism bill which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte late on Jul 3, have vowed to continue their opposition to the highly unpopular measure, including Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong.

The new law which takes effect after its publication in the Official Gazette, gives the president, through an anti-terrorism council, vast powers to identify individuals or groups as “terrorists” and have them detained for up to 24 days without charges.

Those found guilty of the crime of terrorism face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
But the grim prospect of being arrested and prosecuted for the offense has not cowed critics of the new law, including migrant leaders in Hong Kong.

“Laban lang tayo, pagkatapos ng dilim may liwanag,” said Dolores Balladares, one of the convenors of the Filipino Community in Hong Kong Against the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Balladares said the group will hold another rally this Sunday, Jul 5, to show its disgust at the passing of what they have dubbed as the “Terror Bill.”
“Sa halip na matakot, lalong lalakas ang diwa ng paglaban. Walang forever, may hangganan din ang kapangyarihan ni Duterte. Sa huli mamamayan pa rin ang magpapasya sa dapat nilang kalagyan,” Balladares said.

In the Philippines, opposition lawmakers were among the first to hit back. Pro-government senators and members of Congress, on the other hand, praised Duterte for signing the bill despite widespread opposition.
Game not over yet, says Pangilinan
Senator Francis Pangilinan denounced Duterte’s signing of the law, but said it came as no surprise given what he called the administration’s “draconian” and “authoritarian brand of leadership.

“From the murderous drug war to the longest martial law in Mindanao to the longest lockdown in the world, and now to the anti-terror law…hindi pa tapos ang boksing. Hindi pa tapos ang laban,” said Pangilinan.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who along with Pangilinan was the only other senator who opposed the bill, said it was clear from its signing that the administration’s priority is not the health of the Filipnos but to kill the people’s freedom.

 “While the country’s Covid-19 cases have gone past 40,000 and while 7.3 million Filipinos have lost their jobs and livelihood, Malacañang has instead signed the Anti-Terrorism Law that it will use to trample on Filipinos’ basic rights and freedoms,” she said in a statement.

Tinghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love
 “Pero hindi tayo papatinag. Mas lalo nating palalakasin ang ating boses laban sa paniniil ng ating kalayaan. They will hear the people sing,” she added.

(But we will not be silenced. Our voices will be much louder to protest this oppression on our freedom. They will hear the people sing).
They will hear the people sing, says Hontiveros

In the lower house, Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna said: “We will show them that in the face of repression, an awakened people will resist and fight back.”

They were joined by various human rights campaigners, lawyers, media personalities and celebrities in denouncing the new law.

Various groups, including one led by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, have vowed to challenge the law in court for being unconstitutional.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was one of the principal authors of the bill, said: “I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president.”

Lacson vowed to exert extra effort in guarding against any possible abuse in the law’s implementation.
Lacson praised Duterte for signing the bill
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was glad the president “sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law.”

Another administration senator, Francis Tolentino, called the new law “very timely and historic.”

The anti-terror bill had been before the Senate since 2018, but was approved on its third and final reading on Feb. 26 by a vote of 19-2, with Pangilinan and Hontiveros casting the only dissenting votes.

Pindutin para sa latest Winners!
After it was certified as urgent by Duterte, the usually fractious House of Representatives adopted the Senate version in full on Jun 3 this year, with barely a week of deliberations. The leadership refused to entertain any proposed amendment to address the issues on constitutionality.

Even as some congressmen withdrew their votes in favor of the bill eventually, the leaders of both the House and the Senate submitted the bill for Duterte’s signature on Jun 9. If he did not sign it, the bill would have lapsed into law after a month, or by Jul 9.

Last night in Hong Kong, the Filcom group opposed to the bill held an online forum with Rep. Zarate, noted human rights lawyer Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and Bishop Reuel Marigza, general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

All the speakers told the forum participants that opposing the bill was the right thing to do as it was unconstitutional, dangerous, and anti-God.

The new Anti-Terrorism Law replaces the Human Security Act of 2007 and aims to punish those who will propose, incite, conspire, and participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act.

Likewise punished will be those who will provide material support to terrorists and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

Diokno assailed the unclear definition of terrorism under the law, and the unbridled power given to the executive to identify so-called terrorists and keep them in custody far longer that the three days allowed under the Philippine Constitution.

He also rejected claims by some of the bill’s supporters, in particular Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, that those labeled as terrorists can only be arrested under a warrant issued by the court.

The human rights lawyer said the law is clear that the anti-terrorism council has the sole power to authorize law enforcers to arrest anyone suspected as being a terrorist, and hold them without charges for 14 days, extendible for a further 10 days.
The 3 speakers at the Filcom forum in HK called on Filipinos to continue opposing the oppressive law 

Zarate called on all Filipinos to oppose the passage of the bill, and if they fail, support the legal challenge that will be filed in the Supreme Court against it, as well as any legislative steps that will be pursued to amend or repeal the new law.

At the same time, he said an education campaign should be pursued to inform other Filipinos about the dangers contained in the new law, and if all else fails, continue protesting against it in all fora.

“Nasa ating kamay ang tunay na pagbabago,” he said.
(Real change is in our hands)

Bishop Marigza concurred, and quoted the Constitution: “Sovereignty resides in the people, and all government authority emanates from them.”

He also called on Filipinos to continue fighting for what is right, and said prayer should always be accompanied by action.

Sana tayong mga kumikilos ngayon, kung hindi man ngayon, sana ang mga sumusunod sa atin, ang ating mga anak, ay hindi na magdurusa.”

(“Hopefully those of us taking action now, if not today, hopefully in future, the ones who will come after us our children, will no longer suffer.”)

Diokno said that he never lost faith in the Filipinos’ ability to triumph over adversity.

“You can never underestimate the power of the people’s spirit,” he said. “Parang dilim lang ng gabi yan, darating din ang liwanag”.
(That’s just like darkness during the night, the light will come out eventually).

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