Dubbed as ‘urgent’ by the president himself, our right to freedom of expression is under threat with the railroading of Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-terrorism Act of 2020. The grave public health crisis that we are in has revealed the brokenness of the existing system. Even more so, the ill response of the government against the pandemic has garnered criticism and dissent from the people and through the passage of this bill, anyone can be declared as a terrorist.
This May 29, the House committee on Public Order and Safety and on National Defense and Security adopted the Senate’s version of a new Human Security Act or the Anti-Terrorism law to replace the older measure of HSA that took effect in 2007. The joint committee voted 34 to 2, with only Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate, and Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Cristopher “Kit” Belmonte as the opposers of the said bill.
The bill was questioned by the opposition members with Congressman Belmonte saying, “have no objection to going after combatants…. But if we broaden this to go after – by the definition of the national security establishment – the so-called white areas, soft targets, fellow travelers, students who are merely idealistic, professors who espouse theory, political leaders who propose certain provisions that even under the current prescription of the law are allowed, then we’re in trouble.”
The Anti-Terror bill is one step towards a full-blown dictatorship that will be waged by the administration as the 2022 election approaches. The content of the bill is basically a de facto Martial Law masquerading as a bill that aims to quell acts of terrorism. First and foremost, the bill removes the necessary safeguards to prevent false labeling of terrorists from the original Human Security Act of 2007. This gives the State the freedom to label and lash out on anyone who they deem as terrorist without any consequences. The overly broad definition of terrorism takes away our freedom to express and criticize the government, even just a mere meme that shows dissent against the government can be considered an act of terrorism. Keep in mind that any law can be weaponized to advance political agendas, to silence critics and dissenters especially in a political environment rife with corruption and abuse.
In the bill, an Anti-Terror Council will be formed as an agency who will be the sole authority to label an individual, group, or organization as a terrorist. The bill also broadened the definition of a terrorist that even those who espouse radical, and/or liberal ideas, those who participate in non-state sanctioned relief drives and mass demonstrations and those who join or recruit people to an organization that the council deem as terrorists can be crushed with this law as well. To make matters worse, this bill also gives the power to the authorities to put anyone under intense surveillance meaning anyone can be monitored 24/7 as long as they fall under their definition of a ‘terrorist’.
History has already proven that any attempt of dictatorship will be crushed through the collective struggle of the masses. It is our duty as Filipino youth, the future leaders of this nation, to unite and struggle against these kinds of policies that pose a threat to our, and the future generation. The government’s furtherance of anti-Filipino policies that violate our rights and the very essence of democracy, despite this, The Angelite, the official student publication of Holy Angel University will continue to bring factual news, stories, and information from the masses, to the masses. We are empowered more than ever to collectively resist, and we shall never cower in fear.
Art by Xia Xinjie