International human rights group raises red flag on PH new anti-terror bill

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LEGAZPI CITY — The Senate’s new anti-terrorism bill is designed “to arm-twist” legitimate dissent into submission, “weaponizing” the law to suppress critics and activists, says an international human rights group.

If approved to become a law, it is tantamount to training the gun barrel on rural Filipinos under suspicion of supporting rebellious groups, and impacting a “de-facto martial law” on areas under military operations. These are the possible outcomes once the anti-terrorism bill is approved into law.

The International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns the recent approval of the anti-terrorism bill in the Philippine Senate, a statement was sent Tuesday to Bicol Today in Naga City.

“We are appalled by how laws that further curtail the freedoms of the Filipinos are being railroaded under the Duterte government,” said ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy.

According to ICHRP, the proposed law seeks to amend and bolster the country’s current Human Security Act, a repressive law that has been repeatedly used to justify arrests and file trumped up charges against activists and government’s critics.

If made into law, the new version allows violations of human rights such as the right to security and privacy, curtailment of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to due process. It legalizes warrantless arrest and detainment and even allows wiretapping and other surveillance in extended periods of time.

“This erodes the freedoms and liberties of Filipinos which are inalienable, guaranteed by its Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally agreed upon instruments to which the Philippines is a signatory,” ICHRP said.

Grassroots organisations and progressives have spoken up against the proposed bill. Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance of the Philippines notes that “this draconian law will surely be used to intimidate, silence and jail critics, political dissenters, members of the opposition, critical media, and anyone that gets the ire of the President.”

While the biggest organisation of farmers for land reform KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines insists that “it will give wide authority to categorise otherwise legal acts, profession and business, as criminal.”

According to the farmers, it will also institutionalize the branding and tagging of activists especially of the rural poor who are plagued and traumatized by massive militarization.

Recently, people rights alliance Karapatan joined other concerned groups to call for the junking of the law as counterpart bills are pending to complete its full passage.

“It infringes on and effectively curtails people’s democratic rights and lays the legal groundwork for a de facto martial rule,” says Karapatan in a press conference.

ICHRP supports the Filipino people in their fight to defend their civil and political rights and oppose the weaponization of the law against its citizens.

“We have seen the political killings; heard the accounts of survivors and family members; and felt the growing discontent of Filipinos. This law will not in any way protect civilians from acts of terrorism, instead, it will only intensify the already deplorable human rights situation under the Duterte government,” Murphy said.

ICHRP is calling on other freedom loving peoples around the world to condemn the anti-terrorism bill. It pledges to garner more support for the Filipinos in resisting attacks and in defending their basic human rights.

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