The clock is ticking. We need you to act now.
There is growing international pressure on the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, to repeal a controversial, dangerous, draconian Terror Bill, which is in the process of becoming law in the country.
Having been approved by Duterte, it will become effective next week on July 22.
— Kristina Conti (@chronikrissys) July 16, 2020
We need your help to stop that from happening. Back on July 3, Duterte signed what is called the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” which replaced a previous law from 2007. It had been passed by the country’s Parliament just weeks earlier. It now becomes effective law next week — unless we can collectively stop it.
Even before Duterte signed the bill in early July, human rights groups had been sounding the alarm.
Amnesty International warned the law bill could be “used to stifle peaceful dissent or target civil society and other legitimate groups amid increasing attacks on human rights defenders and critics of the Duterte administration.”
Essentially, the new law includes a worryingly broad definition of terrorism. “This leaves the proposed law susceptible to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement–possibly against human rights defenders, political activists, religious or ethnic communities, or other disfavored groups.”
“It is essential that problematic provisions are removed from the legislation before it is finalized,” said Amnesty.
They were not alone. “The Anti-Terrorism Act is a human rights disaster in the making,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for people or representatives of organizations that have displeased the president.”
Edre Olalia, of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, told the Guardian that he feared the law would have ramifications not for the media, activists, and political opposition figures. He called it “a daily martial law.”
You can see why they are worried. The law undermines constitutionally protected rights to political expression and dissent by equating activism with terrorism. It means that anyone can be arrested or detained for up to 24 days without charges. Additionally, activists can also be wiretapped and put under surveillance.
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Those convicted on the basis of over-broad definitions of “terrorism” face up to life in prison without parole.
The fear from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch is that the law will essentially be unduly used to silence critics, including environmental activists.
The country is already a deeply dangerous place to be an environmental activist. According to Global Witness, the Philippines had the most killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018, including those campaigning against the fossil fuel industry.
But opposition to the law is growing both nationally and internationally. Domestically, petitions are said to be “piling” up after being submitted at the Supreme Court. It is also facing mounting legal challenges in the country.
And now our colleagues from around the world, from 350.org to Greta Thunberg, are organizing a petition to “Stand with Filipino Environmental Defenders against the Terror Law!” It is time to repeal the law.
— Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (@YACAPhilippines) July 14, 2020
The petition states that the “global environmental and climate justice movement stands together with Filipino environmental defenders and climate protectors in rejecting the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 recently signed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.”
It continues, “despite the dangers they face everyday, environmental defenders are steadfastly the first and last line of defense for our planet. In this era of runaway climate crisis and pandemics emerging from nature under siege, we have to resist laws that undermine our ability to protect our rights to a balanced and healthful ecology, and most especially, the right to life of everyone.”
It finishes by saying: “We thus demand the Duterte administration, through the Philippine Congress, to repeal the Anti-Terrorism law and stop it becoming effective next week.”