Unite and resist the Anti-Terrorism Act, a barrier for environmentalism in the Philippines

July 3, 2024

Statement of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines on the fourth anniversary of the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act

 

In the fourth year of the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC) Inc.  joins environmental defenders, advocates, youth, church groups, and development workers in calling for the immediate repeal of the law.

 

Even before the ATA was enacted, environmental defenders and development organizations raised concerns regarding the extensive power given by this law to the Anti-Terrorism Council that could violate the fundamental and constitutional rights of any individual or organization that opposed the government projects, programs and policies. The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated 12 environmental defenders and organizations as terrorists. The ATC designated them and froze their bank accounts despite their legitimate work in protecting the environment. 

Despite 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the ATA [1], including a petition from CEC, and the Supreme Court acknowledging that “red tagging” poses a threat to life and liberty [2], they persist in using the law against civil society.

Yesterday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change Elisa Morgera, has presented the mandate’s country visit report acknowledging the systemic attacks against environmental defenders and indigenous peoples under the guise of the ATA have infringed on their freedom of expression and right to life [4].

 

The past four years have shown that the ATA not only has legal power but also emboldens state forces and law enforcement agencies to openly designate civil society groups as terrorists. Since the dissent of environmental and human rights defenders is crucial to addressing the environmental and climate crises, the continued enforcement of the ATA undermines the efforts of environmental defenders to address the root causes and instead exacerbates these issues.


If President Marcos Jr. genuinely wants to address the environmental and climate crisis, he should repeal the ATA, investigate the impacts of ATA on environmental defenders and their work, and seek accountability for these. If the Philippine government “acknowledges the crucial role of environmental human rights defenders in advocating for sustainable development and natural resource protection” as it mentioned in its response statement to the Special Rapporteur’s report, then it should abolish laws that vilify them and cause further hindrance to their advocacy work. 

 

We call on our fellow environmental defenders to stand up against the ATA since environmentalism is needed amidst the climate crisis. We should resist together the shrinking civic space and assert the legitimacy of our advocacies.

 

#JunkAntiTerrorLaw #AbolishNTFELCAC #DefendTheDefenders 

 

References:

[1] Patag, K. (2022). “SC: Petitioners constantly red-tagged alleged ‘credible threat of injury’ vs anti-terror law”. PhilStar. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2022/02/16/2161194/sc-petitioners-constantly-red-tagged-alleged-credible-threat-injury-vs-anti-terror-law

[2] Supreme Court. (2024). SC: Red-Tagging Threatens Right to Life, Liberty, and Security”. https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/sc-red-tagging-threatens-right-to-life-liberty-and-security/

[3] Center for Environmental Concerns. (2024). “Defend Development Workers and Human Rights Advocates”. https://www.cecphils.org/defend-development-workers-and-human-rights-advocates/.

[4] Human Rights Council. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of

human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry”. https://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/visit-philippines-report-special-rapporteur-promotion-and-protection-human-rights-context-climate-change-ian-fry-ahrc5646add2-advance-unedited-version