Mindanao groups launch Alisto!, a citizens’ platform for reporting violations, abuses related to Anti-Terror Act

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 December) –  At least 20 human rights and peace advocacy groups in Mindanao on Tuesday launched Alisto! (Be Alert), a Mindanao-wide civilian  protection  and  monitoring  platform where citizens can report violations and abuses related to the implementation of the controversial Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act (ATA) of 2020.

Alisto! Citizen Monitoring in Mindanao vows to provide “paralegal,  legal,  documentation,  psychosocial,  and  other relevant services, whether directly or through its referral pathways, to those whose rights have been transgressed or may potentially be violated.”

Alisto! is the first Mindanao-wide citizen monitoring platform and the first island-wide in the entire country. There are no island-wide monitoring groups in Luzon and the Visayas.

Mags Maglana, convenor of Konsyensya Dabaw and one of the spokespersons of Alisto!, said the groups that joined  Aisto! believe that the ATA “presents a very real threat not only to Mindanawons of course but also to the rest of Filipinos.”

But it is “mas matindi sa Mindanao” (more intense in Mindanao), she said, because even as there are new developments in Mindanao such as the Bangsamoro, “conditions on the ground concerning rights and peace” have not fundamentally changed “and in that mix, the ATA is an explosive device that can only harm Mindanawons and affect the fragility of peace of the entire country and that is why we should pay attention to it, we should monitor it.”

Composed of Mindanawon volunteers across the island’s six regions, Alisto! appealed to fellow Mindanawon, President Rodrigo Duterte, to  “declare  a  moratorium”  on  the  implementation  of  the ATA, to allow “further reviews to guarantee that the law leaves no room for abuse, the Constitution is upheld, and peoples’ rights are protected.”

Responding to a query if they expect the President to heed their call for moratorium given his stance on human rights, Maglana replied that the

President’s “poor record of responding to Mindanawon calls for respect for human rights notwithstanding, padayon (continue). We will continue to assert, we will continue to assert Mindanawon voices.”

She said many Mindanawon organizations were not remiss as they spoke up on the problems brought about by Duterte’s placing Mindanao under martial law from 2017 to 2019.

Alisto! was organized in 2017 when Duterte declared martial law over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities and transitioned “from its previous work of scrutinizing the implementation of martial law to closely observing how the ATA will be carried out” and will “also actively assail the said law’s constitutionality.”

Alisto! acknowledges that terrorism in the country needs to be addressed by effective legislation  as it urged the Supreme Court where 37 petitions, including four from Mindanawon groups,  have been lodged to declare the ATA unconstitutional, to “heed the sovereign people’s call.”  The high court has scheduled oral arguments starting January 19.

Alisto! said Mindanawons liken the ATA to a bukag or a huge woven basket made of bamboo. The ATA may be handy as a catchall for law enforcers but like the bukag, has many holes “that further  endanger  our  fundamental  freedoms  and  liberties.”

“We subscribe to active citizenship and community participation as imperatives in a time where a very dangerous law imperils human rights. Securing our neighborhoods and making our homes, villages, and communities safe are not the only manifestations of active  citizenship  and  community  participation.  So  is  establishing  an  enabling environment where citizens’ rights are protected, promoted, and fulfilled,”  Alisto! said

Hubs across Mindanao

Alisto!’s  hubs across Mindanao are the Alliance of Tripeople for the Advancement of Human Rights (ALTAHR), Ateneo Institute of Anthropology (AIA), Ateneo Legal Aid Services (ALAS), Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (APILA), Balaod Midnanaw (Balaod), Balay Rehabilitation Center (Balay), Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), iDefend-Mindanao, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (ISP), Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation (KFI), Konsyensya Dabaw (KD), Lanao Alliance for Human Rights Advocates (LAHRA), Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), Peacebuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities Incorproatied (RIDO), Saligan Mindanaw (SALIGAN), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Mindanao (TFDP), Union of Peoples Lawyers in Midnanao (UPLM)  and Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Developmetn Alliance (Zabida).

Aside from these groups, lawyer Romeo Cabarde of APILA, said they have other partner-institutions that could immediately respond to the needs of the victims.

Alisto!’s hotlines are 0995-715-8606 (Globe) and 0961-710-8191 (Smart). Its Facebook account is alistomindanao and email is  alisto@protonmail.com.

“Martial law in all but name”

Alisto! said Proclamation No. 216 which placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017 may have ended on December 31, 2019 after three extensions “but the threats of red-tagging, terrorist-tagging, red-baiting, and racial profiling, especially of Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro, and human rights defenders, remain very evident and have become even more imminent” with the ATA which Duterte signed into law on July 3 this year.

At least four Mindanawon groups filed petitions to declare the law unconstitutional, the first filed on July 23 by Moro lawyers Algamar Latiph, Bantuas Lucman, Musa Malayang, and Dalomilang Parahiman. The second on August 3 was filed by a Moro leader, a human rights worker and three journalists — and an organization catering to the education of Indigenous Peoples or Lumads. The petitioners said “counter-terrorism with no regard for human rights cannot win the hearts and minds of the people against terrorism nor can it suppress violent extremism.”

The third petition was filed August 4 by Anak Mindanao (AMIN) party-list, two Basilan-based Representatives to Congress, four Moro lawyers, an artist and an Imam.

A fourth petition involving  Mindanawons among them a B’laan leader opposing a huge mining project in South Cotabato,  Moro leaders from Marawi City and Lumad teachers, was filed on August 7. The petitioners said the law is “in fact, Martial Law in all but name.”

Other Mindanawons who went to the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act are retired Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, who hails from Davao City; and Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani  Zarate of Davao and General Santos cities and Eufemia Cullamat  of Surigao del Sur.

Civil society stepping up

Cabarde said the receiver of calls to the Alisto! hotlines will determine what is the most immediate need of the victim and refer him/her to their partner organizations nearest the caller, whether it be for medical services, psychosocial, shelter or legal assistance.

A Quick Response team will be deployed to investigate and document.

Maglana pointed out while these services are also being provided by the Commission on Human Rights, the value of the services being provided by civil society is that “this is really civil society stepping up and defining and asserting our role in relation to the ATA.” She said it is also a strong message” that while the current administration is led by Mindanawons at different levels, Mindanawon civil society is stepping up on the issue of monitoring the implementation of the ATA.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)