July 18, 2020 | Mindanao, Philippines
As of writing, this marks the first day that Anti-Terror Law takes effect in the Philippines. Such a noble intention to curb terrorism in this country, but what you may have learned from the era of post-truth is to not fall into the bait of promising titles and read through what these imply. After all, devil is in the detail.
For starters, the Anti-Terror Law (RA 11479) repeals the Human Security Act of 2007, promising to “prevent and stop” terrorist attacks by going after individuals who are identified to perform terrorist acts from their alleged organizations. It gives power to the coercive organs of the state (police, law enforcement, military personnel, etc.) to issue warrantless arrests, with an allowable period of detention to 14 working days, extendible by 10 days. People arrested under this law will also be subjected to surveillance (e.g., secret wiretapping) upon the written order of the Court of Appeals.
This should not bother you, a law-abiding reader, if you are not involved in matters that affect national security—except that the policymakers of the Anti-Terror Law see to it that there vague definition of a “terrorist” constricts your freedom of speech and prohibits you to do checks and balances which a healthy democratic state should welcome.
A terrorist is operationally defined as someone who engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person; damage or destruction to a government or private facility infrastructures; release of dangerous substances; and using of weapons. A person can also be punished if he/she “threatens, plans, conspires, proposes, or incites” to commit terrorism. In other words, the law is a catchall mechanism to paint you as the enemy of the state if you perform necessary progressive initiatives through the bits that you do (especially if you are previously identified to be critical of them): meeting with friends (you possibly are conspiring to do terrorism), buying a sharp object like a knife (you possibly are attempting to do terrorism), joining rallies and social movements (you may disturb stasis—whatever that is—hereby committing terrorism), donating to charity organizations that are not state-recognized (you possibly are a participant of a crime to commit terrorism), and posting, writing, and sharing posts (that can be misconstrued as those of the terrorist activities). Taking these all into consideration entails that the law’s agenda is to not block terrorism, but activism.
I can’t seem to comprehend why the state is so concerned reducing our freedom of expression, of assembly, our political participation, and moral standard for them to function well. Why deem this law urgent while we’re fighting COVID-19 without adequate assistance from the government? Considering that there were no thorough consultations with peacebuilders and representatives from Mindanao who have been witnesses of terrorist attacks and people who devoted their lives in conflict management, would this law ever work? I don’t know about you, reader, but the scallywag intervention on the Marawi Siege (context: in 2017, the ISIS-inspired Maute group invaded the City of Marawi) made the residents suffer twice from the violent conflict and the human rights violations that the Martial Law allowed.
Since the discourse on this law has fomented, I have always been scared for my life as a citizen and for the people who endure to defend the rights that should have been intrinsic to us. I’m anxious to read that even before its passage, the security forces were too belligerent arresting the protesters in Cebu and a group during the Pride March (who practiced social distancing and peaceful rally), and some ordinary people who tweet their indignation toward the government. Then the conviction of Maria Ressa, the CEO of Rappler, and more recently, the shutdown of ABS-CBN (the leading TV network in the Philippines), leading to retrenchment of employees. Looking at these incidents, we’re certain that the arrests are a primer of the onslaught we would have to experience severely as Anti-Terror Law is operational.
Because valid dissent has tackled the brittle egos of these persons in position, they have subjected us to suffer from a law that legalizes silence. We unwillingly pay the consequences of cowering in fear, and for those directly affected, of losing a livelihood.
What I’m really trying to say is that in these turn of events, we must collectively get in good, necessary trouble (to use the late John Lewis’s parlance) to relieve our beleaguered country. We must educate ourselves, then educate our homes and peers, then amplify our ideas by joining organizations, making ourselves clear that voices make up this democracy. We cannot be flimsy on our social movements, because the governments are taking strides to trap us until we cannot speak up anymore.
We must acknowledge that the difficulties we are experiencing has stemmed from politics, and our fight for our freedom is a personal and ethical responsibility we need to shoulder. The more we seem far removed from the oppression of the state and shielded from any forms of privilege, the more we are liable to act.
Voting for leaders who will not snatch our welfare is a chance we can own two years from now. But we can do so much more on being there for our advocates, writers, low-income laborers, women who were abused by this administration, and our medical practitioners. The clock is ticking—we can do so much more now.
Read through: https://atb-primer.carrd.co/
Full text of the Anti-Terror Law: https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2020/06jun/20200703-RA-11479-RRD.pdf
Fighting with/for you,
(NOTE: I launched a Tinyletter account to send rants, journal entries, and drafts that I may not publish here in my blog. This open letter is the first of the series that I sent to the 31 emails I received. If you want to receive my how I put into words my way of navigating the undertow, click this Tinyletter link and subscribe to my newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/kloydecaday)