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Senator Pacquiao pushes for controversial ‘anti-terrorism’ PH bill

SB Nation logoSB Nation 6/4/2020 Tim Bissell
Manny Pacquiao wearing a suit and tie sitting in a chair © Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images

Boxing icon and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao has voted ‘yes’ on a controversial new legislation that Filipinos worry will be used to crackdown on dissidents, activists and opponents of President Rodrigo Duterte (per Bad Left Hook).

Bill No. 1083 has been championed as an ‘Anti-Terrorism Law’ by Duterte. According to a Senate press release the bill provides, “a strong legal backbone to support the country’s criminal justice response to terrorism, provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from the threat of terrorism and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of crime.”

The United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed concerns over the bill (per Rappler). In a 26-page report the UN stated, “The proposed 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, slated to replace the already problematic Human Security Act, dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant…. The vague definitions in the Anti-Terrorism Act may violate the principle of legality.”

In a press conference Ravina Shamdasani of the UN Human Rights Office said the bill’s approach to combating terrorism had a “disproportionate impact on civil society.”

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“We’re very worried,” said Shamdasani. “Currently there’s the Human Security Act which is in place…. The UN human rights mechanisms have already expressed concerns about the current law in that it gives too much discretion to the authorities and the definition of terrorism is too broad. Now this new proposed anti-terrorism law makes it much worse.”

One aspect of the bill that the UN finds especially troubling is the establishment of an Anti-Terror Council — made up of Duterte’s top cabinet officials. That council will be given authority to designate individuals or organizations as terrorists. That authority was previously in the hands of the courts.

The new law also increases the amount of time someone can be held in detention without a warrant from 3 days to 14 days, with a possible extension of up to 10 more days. The law also allows individuals to be put under surveillance for 60 days, extendable by up to 30 more days.

In the Senate, only two opposed the controversial bill, while the rest approved, including the boxer-turned-politician in Pacquiao. In the next step in congress, 173 legislators, overwhelmingly voted yes to pass the bill, with only 31 members opposing and 29 abstaining.

The new law is yet another highly aggressive policy change carried out by Duterte since he won the Presidency in 2016. Both prior and after his election, Duterte has repeatedly expressed his support for the extra-judicial killings of drug users and those suspected of crimes involving drugs.

Human rights groups have documented over 1,400 killings by alleged death squads in Davao between 1998 and 2016, when Duterte was still Mayor of that city. Those reports concluded that most of the people killed were drug users, petty criminals and street children. Duterte has claimed that he personally killed people during this time period.

In 2016 the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) nominated Duterte as runner-up (behind Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro) in their 2016 Person of the Year Award, recognizing individuals who have, “done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption.”

It is believed that what happened in Davao during Duterte’s tenures as mayor is now happening all over the country. Rappler reported that human rights groups believe more than 20,000 people have been killed in extrajudicial executions since Duterte became president.

In January, the International Criminal Court confirmed that an investigation into Duterte’s involvement with ‘shoot-to-kill’ orders was ongoing.

The South China Morning Post calls Pacquiao a “staunch Duterte loyalist”. One issue that Pacquiao and Duterte are in lock-step over is the return of the death penalty, which was abolished in 1987.

Pacquiao is on record saying he wants drug dealers to face death by firing squad. This opinion differs slightly from Duterte’s, who has said he would prefer to hang 20 criminals a day. Pacquaio and Duterte have also shared similarly virulent opinions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

After flirting with retirement in 2015, the now 41-year-old Pacquaio, has fought six times in the past five years (going 5-1). His last fight was a split decision win over Keith Thurman last July. Pacquaio is expected to fight again once boxing returns from a COVID-19 forced hiatus.

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