OPEN LETTER from Mindanawons to President Rodrigo Duterte  on the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act

June 12, 2020

Dear President Duterte:

Warm greetings from Mindanao!

Please accept our hopes and prayers for your continued good health, especially at this time when you decide on matters critical to the country’s present and future well-being.

We write to tell you our misgivings about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act that is now awaiting your signature to become law.

The process of legislating the proposed law lacked sufficient public consultations. In the House of Representatives, there wasn’t even a true debate on the measure as members did not have the opportunity to question the logic behind its provisions, and to propose amendments. A legislation on a serious subject such as anti-terrorism requires well-rounded examination of all issues so that no new problems arise out of concerns that were not attended to.

Sidelined by legislators, we now come to you and offer an alternative view about the proposed law, hopeful that truth and justice will guide your judgment on this crucial piece of public policy.

Just like you, Mr. President, we also abhor terrorism. Many of us are even active in various initiatives to combat its spread in Mindanao. However, our experiences tell us that the fight against terrorism is rendered meaningless if, in the process, we curtail people’s civil and political liberties, the very hallmark of democracy.

Terrorists are out to impose their will on society hence, they abhor democracy. Aren’t we fighting terrorism to protect democracy as our way of life?

Mindanao’s history is replete with tales of the pitfalls of disregarding human rights, even in the fight against so-called state enemies. The atrocities committed against Moro civilians did not quell the separatist war in the 1970s. Rather, these cemented the Moro people’s perception of the government as barbaric, fueling their resolve to wage war and be freed from its clutches.

After 40 years of war, Moro secessionism was addressed when earnest efforts were done to deal with the underlying issues of social injustice, economic inequity, and political exclusion. Needless to say, your administration contributed a big part to that resolution.

Social injustice, economic inequity, and political exclusion also underpin many other conflicts in Mindanao and the rest of the country. The suffering of the people affected by these conflicts—especially the Lumad,  marginalized farmers and fishers, and urban poor—are made acute by the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Taking all these lessons, we ask you, Mr. President, to veto the proposed law. Meantime, please commission a review by the country’s legal luminaries, the security sector, and those with experience in dealing with the varied underpinnings of terrorism, in order to come up with a version that is respectful of people’s rights and freedoms.

The best antidote to terrorism is building a humane Philippine society!

Very respectfully yours,

Your fellow Mindanawons

Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
Convenor, Tulay Kalinaw Mindanaw

President and CEO
Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc.

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An Open Letter to President Rodrigo Duterte on the proposed Anti-Terrorism law