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Filipino activists slam ‘terror bill’ as pro-govt supporters try to disrupt program

22 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Ptr Joram tells protesters the 'terror bill' must be opposed because it seeks to silence the righteous - Migrante photo

Hong Kong-based Filipino community leaders lambasted on Sunday the Anti-Terrorism Bill that Congress passed recently, and called for solidarity in fighting the measure, which is awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

But even before the 4pm rally and noise barrage on Chater Road began, male supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte believed to belong to the Emilio Aguinaldo faction reportedly harassed the protest organizers led by United Filipinos in Hong Kong.

Aside from hanging posters branding the activist groups as New People’s Army members, the men approached the rally organizers arguing with them over why they criticize the Duterte government despite all that he was doing for the country.

The protesters, however, were not intimidated and asked the intruders to keep to their side of the road, saying anyone is free to speak in Hong Kong.
The Sunday ‘kalampagan’ (noise barrage) that started off as an indictment of the mandatory collection of PhilHealth premium from overseas Filipinos, has been expanded to include other national issues, such as the Anti-Terror Bill.
  
One of the speakers against the pending legislation was Daisy Mandap, a lawyer and editor of The SUN newspaper, who said the bill should not have been passed at all since it was unconstitutional.

She explained any attempt to diminish rights provided under the constitution is illegal, and should be condemned.



“Terror law talaga dapat ang itawag diyan dahil ang layon nito ay takutin ang mga Pilipino para hindi na magreklamo,” Mandap said.

“Kaya kapag naipasa ang bill na iyan, wala nang reklamo laban sa PhilHealth, kahit na may karapatan naman ang mga tao, may basehan naman ang mga reklamo natin, dahil matatakot na lahat ang mga tao.”

Mandap said there was truth in Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s remark that there will be no need to declare martial law when bill is signed by Duterte because the anti-terrorism law is worse than martial law.

“Totoo naman. Kayong mga hindi nakaranas kung gaano kahirap ang martial law, hindi nyo gugustuhin ang martial law sa Pilipinas,” Mandap said, adding that many Filipinos, even journalists like her, suffered when the late President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972.
 
Mandap says Congress should not have passed the bill because it is unconstitutional

But she said the 1972 martial law was slightly better than what could happen if the anti-terror bill was passed because Marcos at least tried to establish a legal basis for its declaration.

In contrast, the anti-terrorism bill is patently illegal because it violates a person’s right to due process. Under the anti-terrorism bill, she said anyone can be arrested without a warrant and detained for up to 24 days on the orders of the judicial council, and not allowed to talk to anyone, or to be taken to court by the arresting officers.
“Hindi puwedeng bawasan ang anumang karapatan na nakalagay sa Konstitusyon. Itong Anti-Terrorism Law, binawasan niya ng sobra-sobra yung ating mga karapatan,” Mandap said.

Among these are the freedom to speak, freedom to assemble, freedom against illegal arrest or warrantless arrest. Mandap said the Duterte-appointed judicial council, eight of its members being his cabinet men, will decide whether a person is a terrorist.

Mandap said it is no wonder that many prominent people, including lawyers, movie stars and even the highly-respected retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio have come out openly to oppose the anti-terror bill.

She warned that anyone who is branded as a terrorist by the judicial council, like what Duterte supporters are accusing members of Migrante and Gabriela of, can be thrown in jail and if convicted, sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mandap said an example of how the regime will use the anti-terrorism law to attack press freedom is the conviction of Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa of cyber-libel, along with researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr, a week ago.

They were found guilty by a court under a 2012 law passed four months after Rappler published an article about businessman Wilfrido Keng deemed defamatory by a lower court judge. Keng did not file a complaint until 2017, a year after Duterte was elected president.

Ressa faces up to six years in jail for her conviction, but she has applied for bail pending appeal.

Another guest speaker, Pastor Joram Calimutan from the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said the anti-terror bill must be opposed because it seeks to silence the people into accepting the oppressive dictates of the regime.

He urged the people not be afraid because for as long as there is oppression, poverty and exploitation, the church people will fight and speak up until God will reign on this world.

“So, brothers and sisters, friends and comrades, we must not fear because terrorism is the weapon of the devil to keep us silent,” Rev Joram said.

He urged the people to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who he said was accused of being vengeful and blasphemous for his teachings and crucified. But he was resurrected.

“We have no reason to be afraid of, for as long as we are fighting for human dignity, for justice, and for the image and likeness of God, we will persevere and we will triumph. Tayo ay magtatagumpay,” he said.

Dolores Balladares, Unifil chairwoman, blasted Duterte’s supporters in Hong Kong, the Emilio faction in particular, for “terrorizing” the protesters even before the anti-terror bill was signed by Duterte.
 
Pro-Duterte supporter (in white) heckled speakers at the protest but Ptr Joram calmed him down
As she was speaking, one of the men who had been shouting on the sidelines approached Ptr Calimutan and tried to argue with him, but the cleric coolly explained the issues until the man, who was apparently drunk, walked away.

Earlier, while the pastor was talking, the same man tried to heckle him, saying the church should not interfere with politics, but several women organizers managed to shoo him away.



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