Manila, Jun 2 (efe-epa).- Human rights organizations in the Philippines have expressed their concern about the imminent approval in congress of a new anti-terrorism law, which they consider seeks to persecute government critics and punish both dissent and political activism.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) warned that the law is “the last piece of the puzzle” that the Rodrigo Duterte government needs to impose a martial law, which it has threatened on several occasions.
“We are appalled that the Philippine government is giving priority to repressive legislation but remains bungling in addressing the pandemic. We have seen too many deaths both from the virus and the violence President Duterte has unleashed against his people,” said ICHRP President Peter Murphy.
The new anti-terrorism law was already approved in the Senate in February and the plenary session of the House of Representatives – dominated by the president’s allies – is expected to pass that version in the coming days, after Duterte certified on Monday as urgent the processing of that law.
The proposed law would replace the current Human Security Law of 2007 and, among other modifications, expands the number of days that a terrorism suspect can be detained without an arrest warrant, from currently 3 days to 14 days, to which 10 more can be added.
It also broadens the range of crimes that can be considered terrorism, such as “threat or incitement to commit terrorist acts,” punishable by 12 years in prison, a provision that according to legal experts seeks to punish political dissent, since any protest against the government could be classified as terrorism.
“From its murderous war on drugs and a rabid counterinsurgency campaign to extending emergency executive powers, as well the numerous attacks on freedom of expression, the passage of draconian amendments to the Anti-Terrorism law will seal the deal in Duterte’s brutal campaign of State terrorism-the final piece in the regime’s bid to establish a full blown fascist dictatorship and de facto martial law,” said Karapatan, a national network of human rights organizations.
The civilian population has also expressed disgust with the new rule and since last week – when two lower house committees gave the text the green light – the hashtag #JunkTerrorBill has been trending on several occasions in the Philippines.
The Philippines has within its borders the threat of various insurgencies classified as terrorists: jihadist groups, related to the Islamic State, on the island of Mindanao; and to Asia’s oldest and deadliest communist guerilla, the New People’s Army (NEP), the military wing of the outlawed Communist Party.
Duterte regards the NEP as the greatest threat to national security and has pledged to end them before the end of his term, tightening military offensives against his bases and suspending the peace dialogue.
The president has also accused numerous human rights organizations and leftist groups of acting as “legal fronts” of the NEP, also targets of his verbal attacks, while there has been an increase in acts of violence, harassment and harassment against activists. EFE-EPA