The Duterte administration wants an anti-terrorism law giving it unchecked power to surveil, harass, arrest and detain government critics under the pretext of fighting terrorism. It has been on a trajectory of violating human rights, due process, rule of law, and accountability since the start of its term. With the new law, the government will achieve authoritarianism unmatched since Martial Law in the 1970s.
Such power threatens to be abused for self-serving political ends especially as the 2022 elections near. The crackdown on perceived critics and political opposition will set back democracy further and herald even more and worse human rights violations. It will further divide the country and destabilize the economy.
Our nation can ill afford this – it is already suffering from COVID-19 and reeling from the worst economic collapse in its history.
Yet while the immediate situation is dire, the long-term impacts are arguably even more far-reaching. The proposed anti-terror law creates conditions for the State’s vast powers to be used to favor big business cronies and to entrench economic policies profiting a few at the expense of Filipinos and national development.
This is because the Duterte administration seeks to cripple the most determined forces struggling for democratic socioeconomic reforms – social activists, organizations of the basic sectors, and progressives in and out of government. If passed, the anti-terror law will be used against the fiercest critics of neoliberal economic policies, corruption and cronyism that disadvantage the many to profit a few.
The cause of development will falter without critical voices challenging the status quo of elitist and foreign-biased economic policies. The government will be unhindered in its efforts to preserve monopolies on land and rural resources, cheapen wages and make work insecure, raise taxes on the poor while lowering those on the rich, privatize social services and public utilities, liberalize agriculture and worsen food insecurity, pander to foreign investors and stifle Filipino industry.
This will entrench poverty and structural inequality. Domestic agriculture and domestic industry will remain backward, and overdependence on foreign capital and economies will persist. The environment will continue to be despoiled and degrade.
Even the urgent response to the COVID-19 crisis will be affected. As it is, the government is giving inadequate emergency relief and denying social protection amid economic distress. It is also stumbling in its efforts to contain the coronavirus, treat everyone falling sick, and help those who have lost their loved ones.
The perceived critics who will be silenced are among the most tenacious in pressing for a bigger and better response. They also strive to provide as much relief as possible with whatever resources are at hand. The fight against COVID-19 and economic catastrophe is better-served by having as many individuals, groups and organizations as possible join the battle.
IBON was founded during the dark years of Martial Law as part of a surging movement against dictatorship and for social justice. For over 40 years now, we have persisted in our advocacies for social and economic reforms to build an economy that serves the interest of the people most of all.
Today, we wholeheartedly join all the Filipinos opposing the proposed anti-terror law, asserting the people’s civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, and bravely resisting tyranny and terror.