I AM AT A POINT in which I no longer get easily intimidated by texts that are generally considered to be “too difficult to read.” After decades of reading and re-reading, I think I now have the experience and the grit to power through even the most dense of documents.
Take, for instance, the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.” It isn’t the most complex in terms of language, but it also isn’t the kind of text that I usually read. Maybe I was just genuinely curious, or maybe I have indeed matured as a reader that I somehow managed to distill all 60+ pages of the Anti-Terror Bill.
I consulted other sources too and I did my own research before arriving at a conclusion: the Anti-Terror Bill has very dangerous implications, especially for the country’s most vulnerable sectors. I say no too.
It bothers me when lawmakers claim that the Anti-Terror Bill has “enough safeguards” to protect the people from abuse. It implies that they themselves recognize existing flaws — they knew something would go wrong, and so they wrote the safeguards to cushion the blow.
The safeguards are therefore secondary, almost like point-per-point afterthoughts for when the powers-that-be decide that they can detain, surveil, and intimidate anyone who does not agree with their every move. Some say that law-abiding citizens have nothing worry about, but this argument holds true only if the country’s armed forces have persistently demonstrated extreme diligence when exercising the law.
Fact is, they have not. The “collateral damage” and the “bad apples” are simply too many and too entrenched in the system to ignore.
If signed into law, the Anti-Terror Bill will allow state forces to label anyone a terrorist on mere suspicion. This may not be an issue for people who live in cushy neighborhoods, but it will aggravate the state-inflicted abuses in the slums and in the countryside where the poorest sectors reside. Poor people in the margins are easy targets. They have no resources and no audience, and so state-sponsored violations committed against them are almost always unpunished and undocumented.
The arbiters of the Anti-Terror Bill — the body who may decide if a person or a group intends to commit terrorism — is the Anti-Terrorism Council (Section 45). Its members under the current administration will include the likes of DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin, a former journalist who once asserted that Adolf Hitler did “some things” right; DICT Secretary Gringo Honasan, a former senator who was charged with graft over the PDAF scam; and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, a former AFP chief-of-staff whose tenure was riddled with substantiated claims of human rights violations against legal and unarmed activists.
One can only wonder why these
boomers men whose integrity has been tarnished time and again are somehow still in positions of power. In any case, I think it is irresponsible to support the Anti-Terror Bill, especially if you do so because you believe that you are spared from its possible consequences. It is unwise to blindly trust the goodwill of the law’s implementers. And when a law can potentially infringe upon the people’s basic rights and civil liberties, it must be written assuming the worst of its enforcers.
It is in this context that I read the Anti-Terror Bill. I understand that it allows a court to declare a suspect a terrorist, essentially presuming guilt, before hearings are held (Section 27); I understand that it has “extraterritorial applications” that make its provisions enforceable upon people who live outside the Philippines (Section 49); and I also understand that its clause on “Inciting to Commit Terrorism” includes items as general as “speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, and other representations” (Section 9).
Read the bill first, they say. I actually read it, kids — I am not a terrorist and I am afraid.
The featured image is from Pineapple Supply Co.
If this post gets taken down in the future, alam n’yo na a? Chareng, jusqulerd. Ingat palagi!