Controversial bill becomes law . . .
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a contentious anti-terrorism bill into law on Friday. The Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 amends the 2007 Human Security Act and institutes a harsher response to terrorism in the country. Last month, Duterte marked the bill as “urgent,” clearing the way for the Philippine House of Representatives to fast-track the law through Congress. The law will officially go into effect in approximately two weeks, following its publication on July 3 in the Official Gazette and other newspapers with nationwide circulation.
Dangerous provisions . . .
The law has been heavily criticized for its vague definition of terrorism and potential to be used in silencing activists and dissent. Unlike the Human Security Law, which includes an exhaustive list of terrorist acts that are already punishable by law, the new Anti-Terrorism Law broadly defines terrorist acts by their “intention” to cause death and damage property, among other points. The new law also provides for extended warrant-less detainment of suspected terrorists. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in the Philippines says the law blatantly disregards the 1987 Constitution, which states that no law shall be passed infringing on the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Continuing opposition to the law . . .
Activists continue to protest against the Anti-Terrorism Law, both on the streets and online with the hashtag #JunkTerrorLaw. Many have criticized Duterte’s focus on the law over efforts to address the Philippines’ rising number of COVID-19 cases and lack of mass testing. Opponents of the Anti-Terrorism Law have also likened it to the period of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos, with international watchdog Human Rights Watch calling it a “stealth declaration of martial law.” Other observers have noted the law’s striking similarity to Hong Kong’s National Security Law in its creation of anti-terrorism committees composed of appointed government officials and its restrictions on free speech.