Philippine anti-terrorism law

Youth groups say SC decision ‘not enough’ since dangers of anti-terror law still intact

Samantha Bagayas
Youth groups say SC decision ‘not enough’ since dangers of anti-terror law still intact

JUNK. Activists from different progressive groups gathered in front of the Commission on Human Office in Quezon City on Tuesday, December 7, upon learning that the Supreme Court have voted for the anti-terror law.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Although parts of the anti-terror law were voided, many youth groups call for the junking of the law to further protect ordinary Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines – Youth groups on Thursday, December 9, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to void parts of the anti-terror law but argued that it is “not enough” to address the remaining dangerous provisions.

“While this is a partial victory for Filipinos in a clamor to protect our democratic spaces against looming fascism, we should be reminded that not parts, but the whole anti-terror law should be scrapped,” the Christian Political Science Society of Philippine Christian University-Manila (ChPSS PCU-Manila) said in a statement.

“It continues to endanger the masses amid a time of heavy political polarization that government oppositions are continuously being viewed as a terrorist threat,” the group added.

Despite concerns raised by petitioners against it, the High Court mostly upheld the heavily contested anti-terror law in a decision released on Thursday. It declared only two parts unconstitutional. It voided the caveat of the anti-terror law which would have made dissent or protest a crime if it had intent to cause harm. It also declared unconstitutional the power of the anti-terror council (ATC) to designate a person or group as terrorists based on a request by another country.

With the law mainly intact, this means several provisions including the ATC’s power to order the arrest of suspected terrorists and detain them for as long as 24 days are still considered constitutional.

It is because of the upheld provisions why youth groups echoed fears of the remaining dangers of the anti-terror law.

“Justice is still denied because dangerous provisions such as prolonged detention that can last up to 24 days, definitions of incitement, freezing of assets, and the anti-terrorism council has been deemed ‘constitutional,’” Kej Andres, the national spokesperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, said in a statement.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), meanwhile, said that the anti-terror law “only legalized harassment and abuses among Filipinos.”

“We saw how they weaponized this to further attack critics and the press in its first year of implementation; we are currently seeing how they utilize this to demonize the opposition; and if this would continue, we would see more and worse in the future,” it added.

Youth groups pointed out this might be used to target opposition and dissenters, especially as we near the upcoming elections. This is further amplified by the prevalence of disinformation and historical revisionism that is already being seen online.

“ATL is at risk of being used as a ploy for relentless attacks against anyone considered nonaligned to their political ambitions, especially during the upcoming 2022 national and local elections. It is our fear that this law will only endanger further those that campaign and those that will run on a platform that criticize undemocratic actions that the current government is taking,” ChPSS PCU-Manila said.

The group added that the law might also limit civic spaces in educational institutions, citing “communist infiltration threats” to justify campus militarization and suppression of academic freedom. 

Among the examples they shared was the termination of the government’s decades-long accord with the University of the Philippines that prevented state forces from entering its campuses. Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana justified the termination by citing reported in-campus recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, which the Duterte government branded as terrorist organizations.

While some voided parts of the law have eased fears, many of the youth groups appealed for the junking of the law to further protect ordinary Filipinos from repercussions when they voice out.

Nasa record ng gobyerno na ang binabansagan nitong terorista ay ang mga progresibo, kritiko, aktibista, at sinumang tumututol sa mga anti-mamamayang patakaran ng estado. Walang Pilipinong ligtas, lalo ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan na walang kalaban-laban at walang bitbit kundi ang kanilang lehitimong hinaing…. Dahil dito, hindi sapat ang panaka-nakang aksyon ng Korte Suprema. Hindi dapat hayaan na lalong maging mabangis ang pasistang estado. Dapat ibasura sa kabuuan ang Terror Law ni Duterte,” the Kabataan party list said.

(It’s in the government’s record that what it brands as terrorists are progressives, critics, activists, and whoever dissents against anti-people state policies. No Filipino is safe, especially ordinary citizens who are helpless and empty-handed save for their legitimate calls…Because of this, the Supreme Court’s action is not enough. It should not allow the fascist state to fester. The whole terror law of Duterte should be junked.) – Rappler.com

Samantha Bagayas

Samantha Bagayas is a community and civic engagement specialist under MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. Aside from writing stories about movements and civic initiatives, she works with movers and campus journalists across the Philippines to amplify issues affecting their communities.