The Duterte regime railroads another mechanism for intensifying its attacks on the people. Last February 26, the Senate passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in a vote that overpowered opposition: 19-2. The bill may repeal its repressive predecessor, the Human Security Act of 2007, but the suppression it carries out will be even more severe.
Recall that the HSA was made law by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration to suppress the growing ranks of people struggling against the fascism of her government. Under Duterte, we experience the same fascist attacks made possible by martial law in Mindanao, Executive Order 70, and Memorandum Order 32 which has heavily militarized Negros, Samar, and Bicol. These policies have resulted in the extra-judicial killing of 247 peasants—many of them redtagged—guilty only of seeking justice and wanting to improve their lives.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 emboldens the state to further abuse its authority and legalizes its open perpetration of terrorism on the people. It risks violating Constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights in order to protect Duterte’s loosening grip on power. It is the next step in the consolidation of Duterte’s dictatorship, begun with the militarization of the entire government bureaucracy through EO70. If there has been any doubt about the existence of de-facto martial law in the present, the new Anti-Terrorism Act erases this doubt.
Who are the real terrorists?
The bill threatens to suppress the legitimate struggle of different sectors by blurring the definition of terrorism. In the eyes of the state, mere participation in a protest or joining a progressive organization merits suspicion of terrorism. In withholding certain freedoms from civilians, it grants the police and the military the freedom to surveil, wiretap, harass, and intimidate all arbitrarily suspected of being a terrorist. Worse, it justifies ongoing abductions, legalizes arrests already deemed illegal, and considers arbitrary detention reasonable. Anyone may be detained for 30 days on mere suspicion of links to terrorism—a far cry from what used to be 3 days on at least marginally less flimsy grounds. The new Anti-Terrorism Act is also more forgiving of abusive state armed personnel, granting them more leeway to fabricate charges and falsify evidence.
Such state terror spares no one. Even prior to this bill, mass organizations have condemned countless state violations of human rights. March 4, for instance, marks Alvin Fortaliza’s first anniversary in jail. A theater-maker, Alvin is the creative director of Bansiwag Bohol, making use of his artmaking skills to arouse fellow peasants and organize them to resist landgrabs and other forms of feudal violence. All he was doing at the time he was accosted was distribute pamphlets for Anakpawis Partylist, exercising his democratic right of campaigning for a partylist during election season whose advancement of progressive policies he believed in. Carlo Apurado, Rolly Hernando, and Kenneth Serrondo—members all of Teatro Obrero—remain in jail after their September 18 arrest. Their crime: announcing that their theater group was going to perform the annual Escalante Massacre re-enactment in Negros. To justify their arrest, authorities planted their recorida with guns and improvised explosives.
Even senior citizens are unsafe. It was also around September last year that 75-year old Angie Ipong learned that an arrest warrant had been issued against her as early as June 2018. It took the warrant over a year of circulating without her knowledge that she had been charged with taking part in a rebel ambush against state personnel in Mindanao—an ambush that took place while she was in Manila participating in the #HandsOffSisterPat campaign for a nun and fellow senior citizen harassed by the state. An agroecology expert and former political detainee of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, Angie chairs the Women’s Desk of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura.
If the state can target a senior citizen who had already suffered torture and detention for six years in spite of her proven innocence, if the state can target young theater-makers who aspire for genuine agrarian reform for their compatriots, then certainly the state can target anyone. With the Anti-Terrorism Act, the state can carry out its terrorism more efficiently.
If anyone can be targeted, anyone can fight back
The annual report of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has no qualms listing down progressive civilian organizations as “communist fronts.” With equal effort, Lorraine Badoy and other state-salaried goons have been relentlessly redtagging progressive economists and thinkers with as much gusto as Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas redtagging peasant organizers and labor unionists. If one were to follow their rotten logic, one could make the conclusion that, because the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army are terrorist organizations, then a civilian think-tank like Ibon Foundation and a peasant organization like Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas—listed by NTF-ELCAC as so-called communist fronts—must be terrorists. With the Anti-Terrorism Act, members of these organizations could be arrested and detained for 30 days, even without warrant, for the merest suspicion of the flimsiest link to terrorism.
But if anyone can be targeted by the fascist state, anyone can fight back, too. We must shame this regime for its baseless accusations and its abuse of state coffers just to back up their claims. Anyone can carry a placard and participate in a protest proclaiming our collective rejection of tyranny. Anyone can post a Facebook status update, a Tweet, an Instagram story condemning this regime’s resort to fascism to protect the ruling class. Anyone can dig up the facts of why the the CPP-NPA was founded, and prove its progressive agenda is no terrorism at all. Anyone can participate in the collective struggle for national democracy, and disprove the connections forced by Badoy and her gang of hoodlums between the underground revolutionary movement and legal mass organizations.
If the reactionary government is too stupid to know the difference between the legal mass movement and the revolutionary underground, then it is certainly stupid enough to be undermined by protests and other forms of collective action. Duterte and his henchmen may think they have outwitted us by skirting around nationwide martial law through EO70 and the Anti-Terrorism Act—but the Filipino people can see right through the foolishness of their bald overconfidence.
Duterte terrorizes because he trembles
We can tell by its rotten edicts that the state is rotting. And we can see for whom the state implements such putrid policies—the imperialists, the big landlords and comprador bourgeoisie, and the bureaucrats themselves who can only think of their selfish interests. Duterte aspires to dictatorship to be of service to them and to himself.
With EO70 and the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Duterte regime expands its fascist arsenal for the consolidation of its dictatorship—and it does so because it anticipates heavy and effective resistance. It resorts to deceit, intimidation, and murder, it turns to terror in a desperate bid to quell the rising anti-fascist tide soon to flood the militarized bureaucracy. Together with the peasant sector, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo calls on fellow peasant advocates, artists who value freedom, and the Filipino people at large to condemn these anti-democratic policies and demand the state to junk them.
To stand with farmers in the struggle for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization is not terrorism. If there are terrorists among us, they are those who withhold and grab land, those who trample on human rights, those who create and implement policies that suppress the people who fight such a system of oppression and injustice.
#JunkTerrorBill #PhTerrorStories #FightTyranny #EndImpunity #OustDuterte