STATEMENT: Davao City Civil Society Organizations on the Enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Bills in Congress(HB 6875 and SB 1083)

In the middle of a pandemic that the country is facing, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, certified the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill amending the 2007 Human Security Act, or RA 9372 as urgent.  Congress was quick to enact the said bill heeding the certification issued by the President.

Perusing the provisions of the amendatory bill, there are more reasons to be alarmed than to feel secure in our life, liberty and property.  To this end, we, the members of different civil society organizations in Davao City, register our opposition to the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. While we stand firm in solidarity with the government in fighting terrorism, we find some of the proposed amendments sinister based on the following assertions:

  1. The proposed amendments are ambiguous, overbroad and vague rendering many of our civil and political liberties vulnerable and at risk which may be loosely used against any dissenters or opposition. The fear that the bills may be used as a tool of repression and not as an apparatus in foiling terrorism is great and imminent.

As bearers of democratic principles, we believe that no law should impair our fundamental freedoms such as our right to free speech, peaceful assembly, due process, privacy, movement and expression. Dissent and counter-consciousness are essential in formulating public opinions eventually serving as the government’s barometer to steer the whole state to the right path. If approved, dissent in the Philippines will eventually become criminal. Some of these questionable proposals include the following:

  • Terrorist organizations will no longer be determined judicially by the courts as the proscriptive power to name who terrorists are, is now transferred in the hands of the Anti Terrorism Council.
  • Acts of terrorism are magnified to cover broadly any acts that “seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental, political, economic or social structures of the country.” The determination of its parameters is left to the discretion of the law enforcers.
  • A person suspected of terrorist acts may now be arrested upon the authorization of the Anti Terrorism Council contradicting the constitutional requirement that arrest warrants may only be issued by a competent court. Worse, a person arrested may now be detained for as long as 24 days without any specific case filed in court, notwithstanding Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code where detainees must be charged within 12 to 36 hours from arrest.
  • Any person who is suspected as a terrorist and not necessarily a member of an alleged terrorist organization may be subjected to surveillance, intruding into the privacy of individuals.
  1. There is a great amount of absurdity in the penal philosophy reflected in the proposed amendments. There is wisdom and prudence in the gradation of penalties provided in the Revised Penal Code for principals, accomplices and accessories as well as for consummated, frustrated and attempted felonies. However, the proposed amendment obliterates these classifications as life imprisonment is imposed regardless of participation or stage of execution. Much more absurd is penalizing abusive public officers much lighter compared to suspected individuals. This speaks volume of condoning state impunity.
  2. Timing of the proposed amendment is off-putting especially that the country has to deal with a public health crisis. There is not even any serious analysis on the implementation of the 2007 HSA which would warrant an amendment. Recalling the timeline, PRRD certified this as urgent the day following the uproar from workers complaining about public transportation when Metro Manila was placed under General Community Quarantine in June 1. This can never be a case of providential coincidence but rather an unequivocal intent to suppress people’s human rights.

To reiterate, we affirm our resolute support in battling the evil, that is, terrorism. However, it must be done without compromising the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens. The law, for all its intents and purposes, must promote justice and secure the welfare of the people – not to silence them!

We therefore call on our representatives in both houses of Congress to be more circumspect in deliberating the proposed amendments to the 2007 Human Security Act as its impact to our life, liberty and property can be deep, far-ranging and irreversible. Be reminded that as hewers of social justice through legislation, the common good must be of utmost importance.

We likewise urge the President, Rodrigo R. Duterte, to veto the proposed amendments that reek impropriety, illegality and unconstitutionality as well as those that fall short of the people’s expectations.

Finally, we remind all Filipinos to never falter in the face of threat, opportunism and deceit and to remain steadfast in our lifelong commitment to build this nation in the foundations of democracy, freedom and liberty.

Initial Supporters Signed on June 4, 2020 by the following:

Atty. Manuel P. Quibod
Director, AdDU Legal Aid Services Office

Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde Jr.
Director, Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center

Augusto Miclat, Jr.
Executive Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue

Atty. Joel Mahinay
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao
Free Legal Assistance Group

Atty. Czarina Golda S. Musni
Secretary General, UPLM

Atty. Danilo A. Balucos
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Atty. Emilio S. Pana Jr
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Atty. Tony Boy Azarcon
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Atty. Arvin Dexter Lopoz
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Atty. Jude Fuentes-Lopoz
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Grace N. Mahinay
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao

Carmela Santos
Konsyensya Davao

Victoria Maglana
Konsyensya Davao