Yesterday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terror Bill (ATB) into law a week before its supposed lapse.
The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) vehemently condemns how the government is taking advantage of the pandemic to push a law that is unconstitutional and does not even address the public health and ecological crisis, but criminalizes dissent and terrorizes the people, including environmental defenders.
Even prior the passage, terrorist-tagging has been used by the government against environmental defenders. Amid the enhanced community quarantine, the Cordillera People’s Alliance, an active campaigner against coal-fired plants, were accused as “terrorist front”.
State forces are spared from accountability. The passing of the ATB only gives them more power to perpetrate such attacks.
The government being able to get away with the raid threat to CEC’s office in September last year and the repeated red-tagging of the organization is plain example of the state’s impunity against civil society organizations working for the environment and grassroots communities.
With the Philippines having the longest days of lockdown in the world, the Duterte administration failed to “win over COVID-19” as what Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque professed after recorded cases apparently “fall short” of UP’s prediction. If there is anything it has done, it is intensifying human rights violations, and maintaining the top spot of country as a hotspot of attacks on environmental defenders.
The railroading of the Anti-Terror Bill despite the nation-wide and international oppositions reveal the government’s priorities–to silence critics and ordinary people calling out its ultimately poor COVID-19 response or the lack thereof.
“Environmental defenders have been struggling to protect the environment as part of people’s rights. Protecting people’s rights means fighting against the Terror Law which is unconstitutional and institutionalizes state terror. Even if it is already passed in paper, the Duterte administration would be underestimating the people if it thinks that they will not stand their ground,” said Lia Mai Alonzo, Executive Director, CEC.
Today, organizations including CEC will join the indignation mobilization to protest the passage of the ATB.
“This is not a time of fear but a time of action. We call on everyone to join the Filipino people to junk the Terror Law. The power is in our collective strength,” urged Alonzo.