Sunday, October 17, 2021

Group: Prioritize crumbling public health system, junk Anti-Terror Law

THE Health Alliance for Democracy-Cebu Chapter condemned the signing of the Anti-Terror Bill into law and stood in unity with more and more groups and Filipinos calling on the government to junk the Anti-Terrorism Law amid the ongoing global health crisis that the Philippines is battling now.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill on July 3 just days before it was to lapse into law. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeks to amend and repeal the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007.

Among the most controversial provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law are the warrantless arrest of suspected "terrorists," prolonged detention period of up to 24 days after the warrantless arrest from the current three days under the HSA, prolonged length of time of surveillance of up to 90 days, creation of an Anti-Terror Council (ATC) that has the power to order arrest and detention of people found to be "terrorists" -- a measure reserved for the courts, and removal of the provision on payment of P500,000 damages for any wrongful detention made by officials.

"This bill comes at a time when clearly the government has no adequate response to the Covid-19 crisis which has resulted to more people suffering, especially the poor and marginalized. As the people have yet to see actual leadership amidst crisis, the government is now giving its people a whole new level of disaster in the face of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020," the group said.

"As the country is facing an impending economic recession as a result of the global health crisis, it seemed that the government's priority is to come after those people who criticized the president, his incompetence and anti-people policies. The government should know that expressing dissent is not terrorism, it is a basic human right. Thus, the proposed law is a clear violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution," it added.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report on the killings and human rights violations in the Philippines during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council said that the proposed law "dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant."

"These vague definitions may violate the principle of legality under international law... And now you add to this the context of the Philippines where a lot of human rights organizations are routinely being labeled as terrorists - this is very worrying," the UN Human Rights Office said in a press conference on June 4.

"It is just quite ironic that the Duterte administration urgently certified and signed an anti-terrorism bill into law but remains answerable to the Filipino people for its bloody war on drugs and other human rights violations - an act of terrorism," the group said.

Head-Cebu Chapter reiterated its demand that the government urgently acts on the public health emergency that has severely impacted the lives of the Filipino people. "It has resulted in mass unemployment, overworked health professionals with inadequate support from the government, and the increasing number of Covid-19 deaths and cases due to the overwhelmed and ill-equipped health system in the country. This is more urgent than a law that would only worsen the situation amid the pandemic."

"The country is in a public health emergency and it needs inclusive and pro-people solutions to address the needs of the communities. Flattening the curve of Covid-19 cases does not require a new law violating people's rights and freedoms. Head-Cebu Chapter demands public health solutions, not human rights violations. Junk Anti-Terror Law Now!" it added. (PR)


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