Youth groups continue protest as anti-terrorism law nears implementation

Kyle Aristophere Atienza
They warn that with human rights violations already rampant even before the measure’s signing into law, the anti-terrorism law's implementation will result in more abuses

PROTEST. Sectoral groups unite at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City to continue its protest against government's response to a health crisis calling out its 'misplaced priorities' 
Photo by The Catalyst of PUP

MANILA, Philippines – Vowing to fight the implementation of the anti-terrorism law, youth groups continued to express their resistance a week after the signing of the controversial law. 

Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (YANAT) National Convenor Raoul Manuel stressed the youth’s eagerness to stand their ground and not cower. 

“Asahan na ng gobyernong Duterte na ang mga kabataan ay hindi matatakot at mananahimik (The government must expect that the youth will not cower in fear and will not be silenced),” he said in an online press conference with several youth groups on Friday, July 10,

Manuel said that it was vital to continue protesting so as not to let “our government weaponize laws to advance its own interest.” (WATCH: The dangers of the Anti-Terrorism Law

“Naniniwala ang mga kabataan na dapat nang ipabasura ang terror law. Ang terror law ay pagluklok sa kaniyang sarili bilang isang diktdor at pag-legalisa lalo ng state terror para ang gagawin n’yang suveilance at redtagging ay wala nang tigil (The youth believe that the terror law must be junked. The terror law means installing a dictator and legalizing state terror to legitimize surveillance and red-tagging)” said Manuel.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed last week, July 3, the highly opposed law, which critics say could be used to outlaw dissent and harass rights defenders, social activists, “and ordinary Filipinos who will assert their legitimate demands.”

‘More human rights violations’

The youth groups warned that with human rights violations already rampant even before the measure’s signing into law, ATL’s full-blown implementation would only result in an increase in the number of human rights violations in the country.

Dominic Gotoman, editor-in-chief of Polytechnic University of the Philippines organ The Catalyst said the implementation of the law could intensify the red-tagging and harassment of student activists. 

“The anti-terror law will only intensify its attacks against progressive and critical students. Given the attacks we have seen, it is only just and important to condemn and fight back,” he said in the press conference.

For the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Duterte is the “number one terrorist.”

“The Filipino people have no other path to tread but the route to an intensified militancy and struggle and that he should tighten his grip while he is still in power because the growing and strengthening mass movement will defy his tyrannical rule,” CEGP added. 

Last June 20, members of Philippine National Police confiscated an “anti-terrorism bill”  banner installed by students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines in front of its main campus. Students who held a protest outside the campus were also allegedly harassed by policemen who, based on reports, said “rallies” were prohibited during quarantine.  

Amid opposition from various groups and several petitions filed to challenge the law before the Supreme Court, ATL is expected to be implemented on July 19, with National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr saying that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) was ready to convene and craft the law’s implementing rules and regulations.

Another mobilization

Youth groups also led a mobilization protest at the University of the Philippines Diliman on Saturday, July 11. This was led by YANAT and other several youth groups, including Kabataan Para Karapatang Pantao (KATAPAT), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), National Union of Students of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Kabataan Partylist, and Panday Sining. 

Protesters trooped to the University Avenue and later joined other sectoral groups led by lawyers and Martial Law-era veterans in a broad indignation and teach-in protest at the Commision on Human Rights. (READ: Filipinos take to the streets to protest against anti-terrorism law

“Lahat tayo ay pwedeng masakop sa anti-terror law, kahit sino puwedeng ma-target (The scope of anti-terrorism is so broad that it can target anyone),”  lawyer Antonio La Vina said in the program at the CHR. 

According to the human rights lawyer, indigenous peoples resisting development projects and students opposing tuition increases and participating in various issues could also be targeted by the law, citing that they have long been subjected to red-tagging and state-surveillance.

“Sa simpleng pag-oorganisa lang, pwede kayong matarget ng anti-terror law (By plain organizing, you could be targeted by the law.),” he added.

In a report released Friday, the Commission on Human Rights said human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country “live a grim reality,” emphasizing that violence against them has been legitimized and is “largely attributable to the pronouncements of the President.”

The report noted that red-tagging, public vilification, profiling and surveillance, weaponization of law, among other systematic attacks condoned and perpetrated by the State, have placed HRDs’ “life, liberty, and security… at great risk.”

‘Not the time to be silent’

In the protest held at the CHR, Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers echoed the youth, saying that “this is not the time to be silent” and that the “parliamentary of the street” remains instrumental against tyrants and tyrannical regimes. 

“Ano mang klaseng tiranikong rehimen ay bumabagsak sa pamamagitan ng pagkilos at pagkakaisa ng mamamayan (All kinds of tyrannical regime can be toppled down by protesting and unity,” he said.

Rae Reposar, President of the De La Salle Law Student Council and the youngest among the petitioners who challenged the law before the Supreme Court, said “the generation of today is fighting for the future generation” so as not to let laws be used to perpetrate injustice.

“Do not tire speaking up against injustice sapagkat tayo ang magmamana ng bayan na ito. (We will inherit this country.) We are doing this not just but ourselves, but for the least, the last, and the lost,” he said.

Martial Law veteran and lawyer Neri Colmenares also challenged the youth to lead the fight against the “draconian law”. 

“Isa sa mga magdurusa ay ang sektor ng kabataan, kaya nararapat lang na pangunahan ng mga kabataan ang labang ito (One of the sectors that will be affected by the law is the youth, that is why the youth should lead us in this battle),” he said. – 

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