Robredo: Knowing your rights is best defense vs anti-terror law abuses

A year since President Rodrigo Duterte signed the contentious anti-terrorism law, Vice President Leni Robredo said the measure continues to divide the country at a time when it should be united against threats of the pandemic.

Speaking at the “#DefendDemocracy: Fighting against anti-terror law” webinar on Saturday, July 17, Robredo said that the law contains a number of contentious provisions, including an overly broad definition of terrorism, the power of the anti-terrorism council to designate persons or organizations as terrorists, and a provision that allows for warrantless arrests where suspects can be detained for as long as 24 days.

“In the wrong hands, this can be frightening. Because a law with too much discretion is more often than not prone to abuse. For all the supposed merits and the dangers raised, this much is clear,” Robredo said during her keynote speech.

To help ordinary citizens push back and protect themselves from the potential abuses of the law, the Vice President said that being aware of fundamental human rights is the best defense against the potential abuses of the law.

“The best line of defense is still our knowledge of our rights and ensuring that others are reassured and empowered by the same knowledge.... The task before us ultimately is to recognize and assert our rights as a wider menu of solutions that will lead us to a better normal,” Robredo said.

She also encouraged the public to conduct more dialogues that will educate and foster healthy discussions about the protection of people’s rights.

“As we examine the anti-terror law, let us remember: at their best, laws are not just lists of what can or cannot be done. They articulate the kind of society we want for ourselves, our children, and those who will come after.”

'This measure divides us'

The Vice President also pointed out that the pandemic has already created an “atmosphere of anxiety and fear” in the country, and that such a dangerous measure has only added to the anxiety of Filipinos. 

“At a point in our history when we need laws and policies to unite us behind a common vision, this measure divides us, forcing us to debate false binaries like our safety or our rights, our security or our ideals, our lives or our freedoms,” Robredo said, questioning the passage of the law despite wide opposition.

Since the enactment of the anti-terror law, numerous petitions have been filed against it before the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo earlier said the High Court would "try its best" to rule on the case within the year.

The #DefendDemocracy webinar series was co-hosted by MovePH and the De La Salle University student government. The first leg took place on Friday, July 16, titled "#DefendDemocracy: The effects of ATL on dissenters and communities."

The webinar series was co-presented by the #CourageON: No Lockdown on Rights coalition, which brings together groups from various sectors to amplify opportunities for collective action to promote and defend human rights. –

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is part of the Rappler Research Team’s fact-checking unit. Aside from debunking dubious claims, she also enjoys crunching data and writing stories about the economy, environment, and media democracy.