AN expansive “anti-terrorist” net cast by President Rodrigo Duterte directly threatens citizens’ basic constitutional rights to free expression, a free press, free assembly and organization.
Duterte signed Proclamation 374 on Dec. 5, designating the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) as terrorist organizations.
His order cites Republic Act (RA) 10168 (Anti-terror financing law), which makes it a crime to support groups labeled terrorist. That law bases its definition of terrorist on another draconian legislation, RA 9372 (the Human Security Act).
Duterte clearly intends to make full use of the state’s coercive might to quell an alleged conspiracy to oust him. He has, in several instances, expanded the target zone, threatening so-called “front organizations” and other “destabilizers”.
The twin moves present clear dangers to Philippine democracy. The Duterte government’s intolerance to dissent, even legal dissent, endangers artists and media workers and all citizens exercising their rights to free expression, assembly and organization.
The cavalier use of “terrorist” to refer to dissenters can only hasten the narrowing of Philippine democratic space. This is especially true under a President who sees critics of his autocratic governance as enemies of the state.
It is not hard to foresee government state agents implementing an indiscriminate crackdown against legal personalities, institutions or organizations tagged as supporters of terrorism.
Rallies, humanitarian aid, the performing and visual arts and critical journalism and social media campaigns could very well be deemed “terrorist” by the government.
Given Duterte’s penchant for shortcuts, a trait seen long before he rolled out the anti-terror drive, the potential is high for direct attacks on the arts and media. His new policies intend to cultivate fear, silence critics, and punish those refuse to surrender the right to free expression and the press and other civil liberties enshrined in our Bill of Rights.--Lets-Organize-for-Democracy-and-Integrity-LODI