On the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill

Tsikahan with Tito Jo, a program on current issues, conducted by the ND Online School by Anakbayan-Europa

Prof. Jose Maria Sison answers the questions of the host Anghelo Godino

1. Tito, in layman’s term, what is the Anti-Terrorism Bill and how is it different from the Martial Law imposed by Marcos?

JMS: The so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) is actually a bill to carry out state terrorism against the people, without any constitutional restraint and with absolutely no respect for the right to due process and for the rights to free speech and assembly. Anyone can be surveilled, framed up and arrested without judicial warrant and detained without charges for as long as 24 days on mere suspicion of being terrorist or associated with terrorist or for speaking or joining any assembly to make a criticism, complaint, protest and demand against a policy or action of the Duterte regime.

The so-called Anti-Terrorism Council exercises the powers and roles of the executive and judiciary. It decides all by itself who is a terrorist that must be subjected to red-tagging, vilification, surveillance, arrest or detention. In violation of the constitution, it issues the orders for the arrest those labeled as terrorists and for their detention far beyond the three-day limit to detain anyone without any charge. The Anti-Terrorism Council plays the role of the Inquisition in medieval times in Europe.

The so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill gives those in power the license to abduct and kill people with the unlimited latitude of time and opportunity for them to torture and kill their victims extrajudicially and erase the evidence of their crimes. It removes all liability for illegal arrest and detention. It emboldens the military and police to commit crimes with impunity against those who are tagged as terrorists just because they criticize the regime and make demands on it in the exercise of their freedom of speech and assembly.

If Duterte approves the bill or lets it lapse into law on July 9, which is 30 days after the date of its submission to him, he achieves fully his goal of full-blown fascist dictatorship without having having to formally declare martial law nationwide. A law of this kind for the purpose of state terrorism practically junks the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and replaces it with a Bill of State Terrorism. It would make Duterte a far worse and more brazen fascist dictator than Marcos. If the bill becomes law, it is far worse than martial law. And indeed, there would be need for Duterte to declare martial law to fully realize his fascist dictatorship.

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he did not junk the Bill of Rights outrightly but went around it by invoking the commander-in-chief provision on martial law and invented the factual grounds for the martial law declaration. With the brazenness of Duterte and his servants in Congress in putting forward this sort of unconstitutional and anti-democratic bill, we can expect the worst acts of state terrorism surpassing those of the Marcos fascist regime and also those of the Duterte regime which have earned the condemnation of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. 

2. Now that Duterte said that there is no urgency and that he would review the ATB before signing it, what should be our next steps?

JMS: The people should remain vigilant and militant. They should continue to condemn and act against the ATB. Duterte railroaded the passage of the bill in the Senate and Lower House. He can still sign and approve the bill soon or let it lapse into law. At the moment, he is play-acting that he is being deliberate and prudent because of the massive critical response of the the legal, constitutional and human rights experts and the broad masses of the people in the Philippines and abroad who have condemned the brazenly unconstitutional and anti-democratic provisions of the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Duterte is very capable of suddenly declaring a fake revolutionary government to scrap the 1987 constitution in the same manner as Cory Aquino scrapped the 1973 constitution in 1986 or he can push through charter change and adjust the new constitution to the provisions of the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill. After all, he controls the Comelec and the TIM-Smartmatic vote count and use a quick referendum to railroad his bizarre kind of constitution. The Filipino people are now confronted with the diabolical and criminal political brutes in power and must be ready to wage all forms of resistance to fight the worst kinds of state terrorism.

3. It is said that ATB is greatly related to or influenced by the US regime, in what way?

JMS: US imperialism, especially its so-called deep state, actually supports Duterte’s vow of destroying the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people by any means and his promise of charter change to allow the US and other corporations 100 per cent ownership of enterprises owning land, exploiting the natural resources, operating public utilities, mass media and all kinds of businesses.

Duterte has pleased Trump since their conversation in November 2017 by terminating the peace negotiations with the NDFP and continuing to wage an all-out dirty war of state terrorism against the revolutionary movement. And he has assured Trump that he has been merely humoring China to get infrastructure loans.

But in fact he has emboldened China to build and militarize seven artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea and has allowed China to make major inroads in the telecommunications and energy sectors of the Philippines economy. And certain major US officials are not happy about these as well as the drug smuggling by the Duterte drug syndicate in collaboration with Chinese criminal triads.

4. How will the people’s struggle advance or move forward now that ATB is in place? What can you advise migrant organizations and revolutionary forces abroad? How can we prepare and support the people’s movement in the Philippines?

JMS: While the ATB is not scrapped, the Filipino people in the motherland and abroad must remain vigilant and militant against it. As I have already explained, Duterte is capable of doing anything to use the ATB to his own advantage. At the least, while he does not sign it, he can use it for mass intimidation and for pressuring the social activists, his critics and the opposition.

Duterte is a man without any principle and moral scruple. He has been certified as a psychopathic narcissist, who is boundlessly obsessed with self-interest and and self-satisfaction and who gloats over the humiliation, suffering and death of other people. He likes to pull surprises. One day he said that he wished to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement, then ultimately he would say he loved it. 

5. Is it true that the revolutionary forces in the countryside are decreasing? What will be the effect of the ATB to the number of revolutionaries and their strength? Can you say that they will be pulverized?

JMS: Based on the daily fake news circulated by the Duterte regime and military in the commercial mass media about fake surrenders, fake encounters but real murders, fake raids but real attacks on communities and fake community support projects, the Duterte has been claiming that the NPA has been decimated and ceased to exist as early as one or two years ago. So, there ought to be no need for the ATB. But the problem for the state terrorists of the Duterte regime is that the NPA enjoys the deep and wide support of the people, keeps on growing in strength because of worsening conditions of oppression and exploitation and carries out precise and effective tactical offensives nationwide. 

The NPA is obviously alive and kicking and is growing in strength. That’s why Duterte and his armed minions are going crazy unleashing all kinds of psywar and dirty acts of state terrorism. They find it necessary to push the ATB which is brazenly unconstitutional and anti-democratic. They are unwittingly exposing their desperation and frustrations. And they seem not to realize that all the repressive laws and actions that they unleash serve to outrage the people and goad them to join the armed revolution.

The ATB will not decrease the strength of the NPA or pulverize it. Look at how all the people concerned with human rights and the entire Filipino people are condemning the ATB. This kind of terrorist bill merely calls attention to the human right violations that have been committed and will be further committed by the Duterte regime on a wider scale. It arouses the people and inspires the most advanced activists to join the revolutionary underground and the New People’s Army. As a result, the ranks of the NPA are rapidly expanding.

6. It is timely how Duterte suspended the termination of VFA while at the same time railroading the passing of ATB. Few weeks before that he also bought a new naval ship, are these all connected? How?

JMS: Duterte is a big liar. At no time has he been against the Visiting Forces Agreement and other military treaties with the US. Duterte and long-time US intelligence assets like DND secretary Lorenzana have always been pushing their shopping list of military equipment to Washington and the Pentagon. All the time they have been begging for weapons from the US to kill Filipinos, wasting public funds on these weapons and getting bribes from the the private US military suppliers.

It is obvious that the US officialdom, from Trump to the so-called deep state, is happy with the ATB and Duterte’s glee in receiving new military deliveries from the US, including attack helicopters, planes, a naval ship, artillery and bombs. These are profitable for the US military industrial complex and a huge financial burden for the Filipino people.

7. What can we expect from Duterte in the upcoming days? Can the Filipino people finally oust him or will he last until the end of his term?

JMS: It is possible for Duterte to be ousted anytime before the end of his term in 2022 because the people are undergoing terrible suffering and are eager to rise up and oust him because he has been responsible for aggravating the economic and political crisis of the ruling system and for using the Covid-19 crisis to grab emergency powers, steal colossal amounts of public funds in the hundreds of billions of pesos and escalate repressive measures. He has failed to provide the medical solution to the Covid-19 epidemic and to deliver the promised food and economic assistance to the people.

The ouster of Duterte depends on how the patriotic and progressive forces can generate militant mass actions and build a broad united front with all opposition forces, including the conservative political groups and anti-Duterte groups within the AFP and PNP and among retired military and police officers. 

As in the dying years of the Marcos fascist regime, the armed revolutionary movement can also intensify their tactical offensives to gain strength and undermine the Duterte tyranny and persuade Duterte’s imperialist backers that he has become more of a liability than an asset to them and to the Philippine ruling system.

But let us say that Duterte survives the ouster movement before the end of his term and becomes a full-fledged fascist dictator ala Marcos through charter charge or a fake revolutionary government or he opts for his daughter Sara or Bong Go to succeed him because he controls the Comelec and TIM-Smartmatic vote count. The conditions will be even better for the overthrow of no less than the entire ruling system by 2022 and thereafter. By then the crisis conditions in the Philippines and the world shall have become far worse than now. And the people will become even more desirous of struggling for a revolutionary change of system.

8. If we indeed, oust the Duterte dictatorship, who or what will replace him? Won’t there be another historical mistake such as the election of Cory Aquino that is in one way or another, the same as Marcos?

JMS: Whoever will be the president to replace Duterte before 2022 will depend on the balance of forces among those who can oust the regime. The important thing for the patriotic and progressive forces is to get rid of a terrorist regime and to gain democratic mass strength in the process. Certainly, the people’s democratic government in the countryside will become stronger and the ruling system will become even weaker. 

I have learned from relatives, province mates and friends within the military that they can support the oust-Duterte mass movement if it comes out with mass uprisings as large as those in 1986 against Marcos and are willing to install Vice President Robredo as the constitutional successor to the physically, mentally and morally deranged president. Should the patriotic and progressive forces reject a priori such a prospect? Is it not better to oust Duterte in the easiest way possible than to allow him to stay on in power?

It is wrong for anyone to think that it was an error to fight Marcos and thereby pave the way for the presidency of Cory Aquino. The national democratic movement and the armed revolutionary gained strength by fighting the Marcos fascist dictatorship and causing his ouster and his replacement by Cory Aquino. The most important thing for the revolutionary forces to do is to keep fighting and on gaining strength and taking advantage of the conflict among the reactionaries. 

It is not an alternative to cease fighting the Duterte regime for fear that the revolutionary movement will only pave the way for the ascendance of another reactionary leader. For the revolutionary movement to topple the entire ruling system depends on its own strength and the balance of forces. The full range of the united front policy is to strengthen the basic alliance of workers and peasants, win over the middle social strata and take advantage of the splits among the reactionaries in order to isolate and destroy the power of one enemy after another.

9. Tito, we are observing that in Europe, second-generation Filipinos are very vocal against the anti-terror bill, in fact, they are actively campaigning against it and even conducting discussions. What can you say about this? How do we in Anakbayan-Europa maximize the opportunity to build chapters in various European countries and what can be our important role in this time?

JMS: I welcome and appreciate the fact that in Europe second-generation Filipinos are very vocal against the so called Anti-Terrorism Bill and that they are actively campaigning against it. Indeed, the Duterte tyranny has become so notorious because of its crimes of treason, brutality, corruption and dishonesty. It is now even more notorious than ever before because of the recent release of the report of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights condemning the Duterte regime for grave human rights violations.

In view of the growing notoriety of the Duterte regime and the desire of the Filipino youth and people abroad to help the Filipino people’s struggle for national freedom and democracy, Anakbayan-Europa should intensify its efforts to build chapters in various European countries. 

With the use of the internet and the video conference, you can form chapters even at the level of cities consequent to the formation of country chapters. Your most important role is to arouse, organize and mobilize the Filipino youth in Europe. You can also develop solidarity relations with non-Filipino youth organizations and team up with them in exposing and opposing the Duterte regime. 

10. Anything else, you would like to add?

JMS: I am happy to be able to converse with you and our listeners through this forum. I hope that a forum like this can inform and enlighten and more importantly inspire us to act resolutely and militantly for the purpose of arousing, organizing and mobilizing our compatriots and developing solidarity relations with all foreign friends. We must unite to fight for a better and brighter world of greater freedom, democracy, social justice, all-round development and international solidarity of peoples. Thank you. I look forward to being with you in the next web forum.###