Amnesty International says the newly-signed Philippine Anti-Terror Law as dangerous, setback for human rights

Amnesty International described president Rodrigo Duterte’s recently signed Anti-Terrorism act of 2020 as dangerous and a setback for human rights in the Philippines.

While the new law grants Philippine law enforcement and security forces sweeping powers to identify and punish terrorists, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Nicholas Bequelin said the law also grants the government excessive and unchecked powers to silence any form of dissent.

In a recent forum on Zoom — some activists called Duterte’s regime a dictatorship.

“Do they really need a law against the terrorists, I mean, if you’re an ordinary drug suspect, you did by the thousands, so why would you need a law against the terrorist when in fact we have not been following the law when you treat drug suspects, an activist, and the media for that matter.”

In an email to ABS-CBN, Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez defended the controversial legislation — saying it is intended to prevent and deter terrorist acts.

Romualdez also claimed that the Philippine government relies on international organizations such as the United Nations to help them identify potential terrorists.

But it was the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet herself who even urged President Duterte not to sign the Anti-Terror Bill — following the agency’s scathing report on the widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity in the Philippines.

Furthermore – the human rights watch said the anti-terror law permits warrantless arrests and weeks of incommunicado detentions which is said to increase the threat of red-tagging of activists, journalists, and social media users, with dire impacts on freedom of expression.

“Domestically, any accountability mechanisms have seized to function properly in terms of taking those perpetrators of the human rights violations,” said Carlos Conde. “We’ve been pushing very hard for accountability.”

“This is about using the pretext of terrorism to crackdown on legal dissent,” said Inday Espina-Varona.

“We don’t want this kind of society for our children and our children’s children – when you can be picked up and imprisoned because you dared rally against the president,” said Neri Colmenares. “That is not the society we want to live in, and for you abroad, this is not the kind of society you want to go back to because this is a very repressive society.”

Meanwhile, ambassador Romualdez also said, that the Philippines and the U.S. will continue to closely coordinate on their counterterrorism efforts under this new law.

And that subjecting the new anti-terror law to judicial review just goes to show that Philippine democracy is functioning as it should.

According to Colmenares, lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of President Durterte’s anti-terror law have been filed before the Philippine Supreme Court on Monday.

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