Anti-terror law legitimizes repression, violation of civil and political rights – Karapatan

“The Anti-Terror Law (or the Human Security Act) or Republic Act 9372 is a dangerous law, so ambiguous and vague, that it can only be seen as a tool to criminalize any and all political dissenters arbitrarily. Now, the fascists in government are at it again – rabidly tagging genuine opposition as terrorists in a delirious frenzy. The Duterte regime is citing the anti-terror law as a legal instrument to foist upon activists and civil society groups, intent to conceal the reality that it is the State that has long been terrorizing the Filipino people,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s pronouncement that organizations suspected as ‘legal fronts’ of the CPP-NPA will be charged under the HSA. 
Karapatan, along with several progressive organizations, has staunchly opposed the HSA’s passage since 2001. Palabay said that “this law is among the systematic, vicious and manipulative projects pushed by the United States in several countries to curtail dissent. With past and president leadership (read: puppets) bowing down to US demands, it comes as no surprise that this anti-terror bill was eventually signed into law despite its insidious content.” 

In 2005, U.S. Director for National Intelligence John Negroponte came to the country to push for the enactment of the law, which was patterned after the anti-terror US Patriot Act. In 2007, under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the HSA was signed into law. 

Karapatan cited the arrest of farmer Edgar Candule on March 21, 2008 in Botolan, Zambales. Candule was tortured and coerced to admit membership to the NPA operating in Zambales. He was detained for three days, interrogated and tortured, before being brought to the provincial jail in Iba, Zambales. He was charged with violation of RA 9372. Candule spent almost 3 years in jail, before he was acquitted. 

“Under the HSA, a compensation of Php500,000 per day of imprisonment for anyone acquitted of the crime of terrorism  should be accorded to the accused. This money would supposedly be taken out from the PNP’s budget and the intelligence funds of the president. Not a cent was given to Candule for his almost three years in prison. The application of this law is selective, as the State eagerly violates rights and uses the unchecked powers allowed by the anti-terror law but is nowhere in sight when accountability becomes the issue,” said Palabay. 

In 2010, petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the Human Security Act of 2007, citing the unchecked expansion of authorities to arbitrary and warrantless arrests and infringement on people’s privacy, liberty and other basic rights. The petitioners included several progressive organizations, including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Karapatan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The court, however, voted for the law’s constitutionality.

“Now, the HSA is now being floated again to target progressive groups. It is always in the midst of a president’s unpopularity that the anti-terror law becomes a tool for fascists to crackdown on groups and individuals. This law is a tool, a last resort for militarists and fascists to hold on to power. Despite the arbitrary violation of people’s civil and political rights legitimized by the HSA and the already numerous rights violations perpetrated by the State, this will not deter the determination of the Filipino people to fight against tyranny, against fascism, and against a rising dictatorship. There will be resistance in all forms,” Palabay concluded.