Anti-Terror Law: A Threat to Democratic Integrity
Despite receiving backlash and even after numerous online petitions and protest to junk it, the Anti-Terror bill was signed into a law by President Rodrigo Duterte last July 3, 2020. The said main intent of this law is to improve the Human Security Act of 2007 and eradicate terrorist groups. However, the public was appalled about certain provisions that are considered threats to Filipino’s freedom of speech. Further emphasizing That there should be no law that hinders the Filipinos to uphold their freedom and democracy especially in speaking out their sentiments on the country’s problematic system.
Terrorist attacks are no longer a shocker in the Philippines. Behind the public’s eyes, some places in the Philippines are still infiltrated by terrorist groups and no one knows when the next attacks will be. Due to these circumstances, the bill was passed to the senate with the aim to improve the overall national security and avoid further attacks.
However, there are sections which state threatening to commit ‘terrorism’, inciting others or proposing to commit ‘terrorism’, voluntarily and knowingly joining any ‘terrorist group’, and acting as an accessory in the commission of ‘terrorism’ which basically also implies that even the simple act of criticizing the government and encouraging other people to speak out can be considered as an act of ‘terrorism’. This very same scenario was also present during the Marcos era where activists were silenced because they were deemed ‘detrimental’ to the system. Lest we forget that there are already cases similar to this even before the act was reenacted which is considered as red-tagging; with female celebrities like Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, and Angel Locsin as the latest victims. Also, in a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report there are "at least 80 recognized human rights defenders, indigenous peoples' representatives, and representatives of community-based organizations" who are labeled as terrorists by the Duterte administration. This only confirms how people who are only fighting for their rights and actively practicing their freedom of speech are sabotaged in the system.
Hence, for this decision to be effective, this law needs to be studied further and so are the concerns of the public on why it needs to be revised. There should be a guarantee that this law will not undermine the basic human rights of Filipinos but rather, support and uphold it. The vague provisions of the law can be subjected to the already increasing number of violation of human rights in the country; considering the fact that Philippines is a democratic country where freedom and integrity are sustained, and the voice of the people holds the greatest power. Not to mention how this law was ratified during a pandemic where everyone is crippling on their own, which only leads us to the question on why exactly this bill was rushed.
There is a clear line between becoming a threat to the national security and simply standing up for what you believe in; and criticizing the system with the intent of improving its system. Consequently, there should be no reason for Filipinos to be afraid to speak up in hopes to spark an action for further improvement and development of the country. If so, then this is considered Martial Law all over again where harmless critics are considered as criminals – even if their stands are valid and worthy to be heard of. This law should only affect those who are a real threat to the national security – not those who only seek for amelioration for their fellow Filipinos. However, despite Anti-Terror Law being a possible threat to democratic integrity, this will not silence the oppressed to amplify not only their voices but of the general public.