• Project Angel Island

Activism Is Not Terrorism: Filipinos Voice their Dissents

As of July 3, 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a controversial Anti-Terrorism bill, despite worldwide criticism and extensive backlash. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a Philippine law that serves to prevent and penalize terrorism activities in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Philippine ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel Romualdez, stated that the “ineffectiveness” of the Human Security Act of 2007 from terrorism acts and threats is the reason as to why it will be effectively replaced by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Many were outraged as Duterte signed and passed the bill as it could lead to further human rights abuses and granting the Philippine police and military forces overreaching powers.

Throughout the decades, terrorism risk and acts in the Philippines have been significantly rising and as notorious as ever — from armed attacks, kidnappings, and homicides in the past, to increased terrorist acts involving explosive devices and suicide bombings. By enforcing the Anti-Terrorism Act, “it would prove to be a more effective legal framework that would enable a criminal justice response to terrorist acts” as stated by Filipino ambassador, Jose Manuel Romualdez. Although the bill serves to protect and prevent the nation from terrorism, Filipinos voice out their concerns and opposition towards the newly signed bill by holding protests and sending petitions to the Philippine Supreme Court in hopes to overturn the new anti-terror law.

With the Philippine police and military forces gaining more than enough power from the Anti-Terrorism Act, it gives them enough authority to violate a Filipino’s fundamental human right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. The Anti-Terrorism Act is so unreasonably broad that anyone, at this point, can be a terrorist. Activists and, even, ordinary citizens like journalists and social media users who are suspected of terrorist activities or critics of Duterte’s government could be arrested and be brought in for extensive interrogation for weeks without a warrant and keep them in lengthy surveillance for up to 90 days. Even those who peacefully dissent are stifled and targeted by the law. The penalty for a violation or a misdemeanor could be as serious and extreme as a life sentence without parole.

Being able to freely speak our minds and expressing ourselves should be a privilege that all must have. Our voice, our opinions, our dissent should not be stifled, suppressed, or stopped and, instead, be boldly and unapologetically heard without looking back. Right now, Filipinos are being oppressed and are fighting for their democratic rights through long protests and petitions in hopes of finding their voices once again.

Activism Is Not Terrorism!

Chloe Salva



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