The Philippines Passes Controversial ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Law Amid Widespread Protest

BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 30: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) speaks to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on August 30, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by How Hwee Young-Pool/Getty Images)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the highly controversial Anti-Terrorism Act into law on Friday despite heavy opposition from various groups.

Terrorism under the law: The Anti-Terrorism law, which replaces the Human Security Act of 2007, casts a vague and wide net in its definition of what terrorism is.

  • The new law classifies terrorism as “engaging in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person or endangers a person’s life;
  • Engaging in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place, or private property;
  • Engaging in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage, or destruction to critical infrastructure;
  • Developing, manufacturing, possessing, acquiring, transporting, supplying, or using weapons; and
  • Releasing dangerous substances or causing fire, floods or explosions when the purpose is to intimidate the general public, create an atmosphere to spread a message of fear, provoke or influence by intimidation the government or any international organization, seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures in the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.”
  • The law also officially gives the police and military larger powers to go after suspected terrorists, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
  • These powers include conducting warrantless surveillance and arrests, establishing tougher punishments for suspected terrorists and creating an Anti-Terror Council made up of cabinet officials.
  • Critics say the law’s vague definition of the term “terrorist” can be easily used to target people expressing dissent about the government’s policies.
  • Duterte has expressed support for the bill before, even certifying it as urgent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The bill was passed in Congress earlier this June, adopting the Senate’s version, which was passed in February.

Local and international backlash: Amnesty International has joined local opposition groups to reject the new law legislation, which it said “contains dangerous provisions and risks further undermining human rights in the country.”

  • Activists took to the streets to oppose the law on Saturday, with members of various activist groups staging an indignation rally inside the University of the Philippines – Diliman campus.
  • Filipinos also took to social media to denounce the law, with hashtags #OUSTDUTERTENOW #VetoTerrorBillNow and #JunkTerrorLaw topping the Philippines’ Twitter trending topics last Friday evening.

  • Even K-pop fandoms have shown their support by drowning out attempts by pro-Duterte groups to promote the then bill on Twitter via the hashtag #SupportAntiTerrorBill, as NextShark reported earlier.

  • Many expressed anger over the passing of the law in the middle of a pandemic, citing the government’s lack of priority of the country’s health crisis.

  • Some compared the law to China’s recent passing of the national security law in Hong Kong.

  • Meanwhile, proponents of the law argued that it is timely due to the alleged “threat of terrorism” from communist rebels in the country.

Feature Image via Philippine News Agency

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