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