Define Terrorism

Will the Philippines’ new Anti-Terrorism Bill fight more than just terror?

By Jeremiah Capacillo


Imagine posting a meme on social media and getting canned for terrorism. Too Black Mirror? The Philippines might soon find out.

On June 3, the Philippine Congress approved for the third and final time House Bill No. 6875, known as the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It seeks to “protect people from terrorist acts” by expanding the legal definition of terrorism and enacting harsher punishments.

In the works since 2018, the bill was fast-tracked on May 30 when President Duterte classified it as “urgent.” With the overwhelming support of 173 lawmakers, Senate President Tito Sotto declared the bill “as good as passed.”

So, an anti-terrorism bill that has huge government support. What’s not to like? And yet, the bill is not without controversy.

Do not pass go

Under the Anti-Terrorism Bill, terrorist acts can lead to a lifetime in prison. Everything from murder and destruction of property, to involvement with explosives and causing general catastrophe can be severely punished, if linked to terrorism.

Interestingly, the bill also includes a provision for activities “adjacent to terrorism”:

(1) “threatening” to commit terrorism;

(2) inciting others to commit terrorist acts;

(3) voluntarily and knowingly joining any terrorism group or association;

(4) being an accessory in the commission of terrorism.

The government isn’t playing around. If convicted of any of these acts, one can face up to 12 years in prison. Furthermore, suspects can be detained without a warrant for 24 days, and be placed under surveillance for up to 60 days.

Why the new rules?

The Philippines already has R.A. No. 9372, or the 2007 Human Security Act, as an anti-terrorism measure. In it, terrorism is clearly defined as “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

It’s pretty definitive. Compare that with the new Anti-Terror Bill’s definition of terrorism as any act that “intimidates a population or compels a government, an international organization or any person or entity to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

It seems that under the Anti-Terror Bill, the anti-terrorism council can charge anyone with terrorism if they simply deem it a “serious threat.”

Criticism and concerns

In its current form, the proposed law seems vague and authoritarian. Some of its provisions also appear to be in contravention of Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

It’s little wonder that human rights groups and advocates have condemned it, pointing out how it may curtail freedom of speech.

On Twitter, the hashtags #JunkTerrorBill and #ActivismIsNotTerrorism have been trending nightly.

Despite quarantine measures, hundreds of activists assembled outside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus on June 4 to peacefully protest.

Activist and Kabataan representative Sarah Elago expressed her fear on how President Rodrigo Duterte can use the bill to “normalise the atmosphere of Martial Law.”

Prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders decried the bill and condemned how it “insidiously strips away respect for human rights and other civil liberties.”

The Ateneo Human Rights Center dismissed the bill as “a glaring attempt to weaponise the law to silence critics and suppress lawful dissent,” adding that the government intends to use it as a “tool for repression.”

Only two senators voted against the bill in its second reading earlier in February. Senator Risa Hontiveros chided the measure and the government’s “misplaced priorities” amid the coronavirus crisis, calling it a “tragedy for democracy.” Senator Kiko Pangilinan dismissed the bill as “vague” and expressed concern for how it can enable abuses by law enforcers.

Senate President Sotto, however, maintains his position and support for the bill. “Daming epal at namimintas,” (there are too many whiny trolls) he said, adding that “terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill.”

The right to be terrified

An anti-terrorism law makes sense in a country that routinely battles terrorism and insurgencies. But the Philippine government doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to human rights. A bill like this could be used to silence critics, stamp out pesky opposition and strong-arm people to obey authoritarian policies.

Which is exactly how Martial Law was abused by the Marcos government nearly 40 years ago. The residual pain and fear from that period lingers today and fuels both old and new generations in their distrust of authoritarian power moves. People are terrified of this bill, and rightly so.

The government would do well to listen. Filipinos all want the same thing – peace, not fear. But to fight terrorism is one thing; defining it is altogether different and infinitely more important.



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Will the Philippines’ new Anti-Terrorism Bill fight more than just terror? By Jeremiah Capacillo Imagine posting a meme on social media and getting canned for terrorism. Too Black Mirror? The Philippines might soon find out. On June 3, the Philippine Congress approved for the third and final time House Bill No. 6875, known as the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It seeks to “protect people from terrorist acts” by expanding the legal definition of terrorism and enacting harsher punishments. In the works since 2018, the bill was fast-tracked on May 30 when President Duterte classified it as “urgent.” With the overwhelming support of...

Will the Philippines’ new Anti-Terrorism Bill fight more than just terror?

By Jeremiah Capacillo


Imagine posting a meme on social media and getting canned for terrorism. Too Black Mirror? The Philippines might soon find out.

On June 3, the Philippine Congress approved for the third and final time House Bill No. 6875, known as the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It seeks to “protect people from terrorist acts” by expanding the legal definition of terrorism and enacting harsher punishments.

In the works since 2018, the bill was fast-tracked on May 30 when President Duterte classified it as “urgent.” With the overwhelming support of 173 lawmakers, Senate President Tito Sotto declared the bill “as good as passed.”

So, an anti-terrorism bill that has huge government support. What’s not to like? And yet, the bill is not without controversy.

Do not pass go

Under the Anti-Terrorism Bill, terrorist acts can lead to a lifetime in prison. Everything from murder and destruction of property, to involvement with explosives and causing general catastrophe can be severely punished, if linked to terrorism.

Interestingly, the bill also includes a provision for activities “adjacent to terrorism”:

(1) “threatening” to commit terrorism;

(2) inciting others to commit terrorist acts;

(3) voluntarily and knowingly joining any terrorism group or association;

(4) being an accessory in the commission of terrorism.

The government isn’t playing around. If convicted of any of these acts, one can face up to 12 years in prison. Furthermore, suspects can be detained without a warrant for 24 days, and be placed under surveillance for up to 60 days.

Why the new rules?

The Philippines already has R.A. No. 9372, or the 2007 Human Security Act, as an anti-terrorism measure. In it, terrorism is clearly defined as “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

It’s pretty definitive. Compare that with the new Anti-Terror Bill’s definition of terrorism as any act that “intimidates a population or compels a government, an international organization or any person or entity to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

It seems that under the Anti-Terror Bill, the anti-terrorism council can charge anyone with terrorism if they simply deem it a “serious threat.”

Criticism and concerns

In its current form, the proposed law seems vague and authoritarian. Some of its provisions also appear to be in contravention of Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

It’s little wonder that human rights groups and advocates have condemned it, pointing out how it may curtail freedom of speech.

On Twitter, the hashtags #JunkTerrorBill and #ActivismIsNotTerrorism have been trending nightly.

Despite quarantine measures, hundreds of activists assembled outside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus on June 4 to peacefully protest.

Activist and Kabataan representative Sarah Elago expressed her fear on how President Rodrigo Duterte can use the bill to “normalise the atmosphere of Martial Law.”

Prominent Catholic and Protestant leaders decried the bill and condemned how it “insidiously strips away respect for human rights and other civil liberties.”

The Ateneo Human Rights Center dismissed the bill as “a glaring attempt to weaponise the law to silence critics and suppress lawful dissent,” adding that the government intends to use it as a “tool for repression.”

Only two senators voted against the bill in its second reading earlier in February. Senator Risa Hontiveros chided the measure and the government’s “misplaced priorities” amid the coronavirus crisis, calling it a “tragedy for democracy.” Senator Kiko Pangilinan dismissed the bill as “vague” and expressed concern for how it can enable abuses by law enforcers.

Senate President Sotto, however, maintains his position and support for the bill. “Daming epal at namimintas,” (there are too many whiny trolls) he said, adding that “terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill.”

The right to be terrified

An anti-terrorism law makes sense in a country that routinely battles terrorism and insurgencies. But the Philippine government doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to human rights. A bill like this could be used to silence critics, stamp out pesky opposition and strong-arm people to obey authoritarian policies.

Which is exactly how Martial Law was abused by the Marcos government nearly 40 years ago. The residual pain and fear from that period lingers today and fuels both old and new generations in their distrust of authoritarian power moves. People are terrified of this bill, and rightly so.

The government would do well to listen. Filipinos all want the same thing – peace, not fear. But to fight terrorism is one thing; defining it is altogether different and infinitely more important.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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