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Anti-terror bill inspires post-ECQ mobilization of militants

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 6/3/2020 MA. ANGELICA GARCIA,GMA News
a group of people walking down a street: Anti-terror bill protest © https://publish.twitter.com/?query=https%3A%2F%2Ft Anti-terror bill protest

Three days into the eased lockdown in Metro Manila, militant groups delivered an opening salvo of street action when they marched at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to protest the anti-terrorism bill. 

Led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the groups called for the junking of the law, saying it will only be used to quell activists and critics airing legitimate concerns.

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Congress is expected to approve an amended version, which was earlier certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

 

House Bill 6857, which will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, allows warrantless arrest and surveillance on people based on suspicion that they are involved in terrorist activities.

Under the measure, any person who will threaten to commit terrorism will be imprisoned for 12 years. The same jail term will be imposed on those who will propose any terroristic act or incite others to commit terrorism.

It also removes the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said the anti-terror bill is “as good as passed.”

The House of Representatives has approved the bill on second reading.

In a statement, “Panday Sining,” one of the groups who joined the protest, slammed Duterte regime for giving attention to the bill amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

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“Despite hunger and mental disquiet over insufficient COVID-19 response, Duterte opted to certify the ‘Terror Bill’ as urgent to trample on the peoples’ rights," Stef Melendres, Panday Sining national spokesperson, said.

“Having the bill marked as ‘urgent’ over mass testing and aid distribution is as good as saying you prioritize keeping yourself in power over keeping your people alive,” Melendres added.

She said artists and cultural workers were among the most vulnerable sectors with the bill’s looming passage.

“Artists make a living from creatively interpreting reality, and when reality is tragic and grim, it is inevitable to be exposing the state’s gross negligence and impunity. Under the bill, art production may then be considered a terroristic act. Artists are not terrorists,” Melendres said.

On Tuesday, human rights lawyers have raised concerns on the possibility that the proposed law may be used to stifle dissent against the administration and usher in a series of human rights abuses.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, author and sponsor of the bill, said concerns on the proposed measure were considered when it was being crafted and that there are "enough safeguards" against abuses.

Earlier, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said the bill does not infringe on the public’s constitutional right to free expression and press freedom. —LDF, GMA News

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