TikToker Macoy Dubs, Mark Averilla in real life, went live on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, July 29, not to broadcast another of his funny – often political – antics, but to show his 126,000 followers they were filing a petition against the feared anti-terror law.
Averilla, in dress shirt and heels, held up their petition by the famed Supreme Court seal in Padre Faura and tweeted: “Susukat ang heels pero hindi susuko,” meaning it was hard to wear heels but he would not give up.
Averilla was joined by 18 other social media personalities in the 21st petition filed before the Supreme Court against the divisive anti-terror law.
They were an unlikely bunch of petitioners. One was vendor Marita “Aling Marie” Dinglasan, viral for her angry rants against the Duterte administration videoed under jumbles of powder detergent sachets in her humble sari-sari (variety) store, but now a favorite fixture in rallies and demonstrations.
Perhaps the justices would also want to know that petitioner Mark Angelo Geronimo, a college student who has 45,000 followers on Twitter, proclaims himself “your Twitter bhie bhie gurl.” They are a tasty slice of the Filipino Twitter culture which is both, as millennials would like to say, makalat (messy) but decisively relevant.
They have a naughty hashtag too: #COCBlockAntiTerrorLaw, with COC meaning Concerned Online Citizens, their collective name in the 52-page petition filed before the High Court.
Expectedly, their filing needed no mainstream media to be noticed – “Twitter Bhie Bhie Gurl” trended briefly, buoyed by Filipino Twitter’s affinity for anything comically “woke.”
Averilla, who is a college instructor and social media manager for an advertising company, said their hashtags “intend to raise consciousness” about the anti-terror law. Their petition was quickly uploaded and shared to their bases hundreds of thousands strong.
“It’s also to activate people’s critical thinking on certain issues,” Averilla told Rappler.
Averilla said his choice of outfit was also to provoke discussion.
“My heels were size 8, I’m size 10, so the heels represent the Rizal Stadium jampacked with Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs). It’s not because I want to make a scene, but because I want to represent the hardships of LSIs,” Averilla said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Geronimo told his “ka-bhie-bhies” that “nagsisimula pa lang ang laban, hanggang dulo para sa bayan (the battle has just began, until the end, for the country).”
Prominent blogger and co-petitioner Tonyo Cruz said on Twitter: “We went to Court today,” a simple one-liner packed with meanings of a gutsy exercise of civil and political rights despite “a deleterious chilling effect.”
“Maingay na tayo sa social media, panahon nang dalhin na natin ang #RampaSaKorteSuprema! (We are already noisy on social media, it’s time we take our strut to the Supreme Court)” tweeted petitioner Thysz Estrada.
Quirky and risqué as they may seem, the petitioners meant business, tapping San Sebastian College Graduate School of Law Dean Rodel Taton as their lawyer.
Their petition highlighted the threats of the law to internet freedom, citing as examples the arrest and jailing of teacher Ronnel Mas for tweeting an offer of a reward to kill President Rodrigo Duterte, and the arrest and questioning of 4 labor leaders in Valenzuela City over an online rally.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 perfectly fits as a weapon to terrorize Filipinos online into stopping debate, discussion and dissent as this centers on speech, of expression, and of the press. As a netizen myself, my constitutional rights to procedural and substantial due process will be violated, that is my fear too for our countrymen,” said Dean Taton.
The petition went on to argue the constitutional issues of the law – the vagueness of the definition of terror under Section 4, the overreach of executive through warrantless arrests and 24-day detentions under Section 29 and “arbitrary” powers to designate people as terrorists under Section 25.
The petition pointed out how the government “labelled critics as enemies of the state and in a matrix or in televised speeches called them out as terrorists or destabilizers.”
“The assailed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is like a sword hanging over the heads of citizens who are now mostly conducting on the Internet interactions, transactions, commerce and business, media consumption, availment of government services, and public debate on national issues,” said the petition.
In their petition they told the justices, still using millennial pop culture language, “expectations and reality are right before our faces.”
“There is a credible threat of prosecution,” said the petitioners, “it is real.” – Rappler.com