This Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terror Bill into law, a move widely criticized by human rights groups and recently by the United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet.
As ICHRP-US, we unite in solidarity with the Filipino people and vehemently condemn the passing of the law. The legislation allows state forces to broadly label individuals as terrorists without due process, arrest without warrant, detain for up to 14 days, and wiretap for up to 90 days among other concerning provisions. Duterte’s law will serve as a means to further crackdown on activists and terrorize the Filipino people.
In the context of the Duterte regime’s recent political maneuvers, the passage of the Anti-Terror Law is not random but calculated.
The law comes in wake of a series of foreign policy developments in relationship to the United States — the April notification of major arms sales proposals from the United States and then the suspension of Duterte’s prior termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Along with these developments, We cannot overlook the influence of the United States in the push for the Anti-Terror Law, which in design mimics the increased state surveillance and state power modeled in the U.S. Patriot Act. It is clear Duterte — who led a militarist response to the Covid-19 pandemic and made a “shoot to kill” order against quarantine violators — is exploiting the current medical and public health crisis to push policy changes that benefit the strengthening and extension of his dictatorship. Finally, it seems no coincidence Duterte waited until after the UN Human Rights report was made public to finally sign the bill.
The rise of Duterte’s fascism has not relented, and neither must we relent in our advocacy. With the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, the time is ripe to build upon the grassroots movement for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines and make Congress decisive in introducing a Philippine Human Rights Act that will hold Duterte accountable and withhold US tax dollars from human rights violations in the Philippines.
As made clear on today’s date “Philippine-American Friendship Day” the United States government places great value on “friendship” with the Philippines. But we oppose any manipulation of friendship being used as a veil for US intervention in the Philippines. Rather, we call for people in the United States to uphold genuine friendship with the Filipino people, which is based on solidarity, not intervention.