Earlier today, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip in the U.S. House, joined, former Philippine Congressman Neri Colmenares, and representatives from the Malaya Movement and the International Coalition for Human RIghts in the Philippines (ICHRP) in an online press conference to call on the Philippine government under Rodrigo Duterte to rescind the newly-signed Anti-Terror Law (ATL). The law, which will go into effect in the Philippines on July 18, expands the powers of security forces to arrest and detain those they deem to be terror suspects.
On the call, Schakowsky presented a letter signed onto by Elliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chris Smith, Ranking Republican of the Committee with 50 U.S. Congressmembers, including Judy Chu (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Illhan Omar (D-MN) and Katie Porter (D-CA) - exemplifying the bipartisan movement condemning the Philippine government.
“The exploitation by Rodrigo Duterte of laws like the Anti-Terror Law to escalate violent attacks, raids, and arrests against people in the Philippines, all while silencing anyone who attempts to speak out against his government or policies, is nothing short of a horrific display of fascist power,” said Shane Larson, Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy at the Communications Workers of America (CWA), who has been advocating against human and workers’ abuses in the Philippines for years. “His critics include brave union and progressive organizers who are seeking to improve the lives and conditions of Filipino workers, as well as the workers themselves. Whether it be people like Anne Kruger, an activist working to organize workers in call centers serving US corporations, Maria Ressa, an award-winning reporter and founder of media outlet the Rappler, Coca-Cola workers struggling to unionize at a bottling plant, or one of the many Labor leaders assassinated in targeted killings documented by the ILO and the UN.
“CWA joins with this bipartisan group of Congressmembers and implores the Philippines government to rescind the ATL, release those who have been wrongfully detained, and cease its use of military “red tagging” efforts targeting union leaders, labor organizers, and all human rights defenders for arrests and targeted assassinations. Moreover, we urge US corporations profiting off this blatant abuse of fundamental human rights to join us in condemning these actions by Duterte and the Philippines military.”
The Anti-Terror Act (Republic Act No. 11479) was signed into law by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, giving the government broad discretion to label critics of the government as terrorists given the law’s vague definition of terrorism. The provisions of the new law include wiretapping without notice, arrest without warrant, and detention for up to 24 days, which goes beyond the limit prescribed by the Philippine Constitution. The law has been met with widespread opposition in the Philippines and across the world, including from the United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet.
The legislation gives Duterte’s security forces the power to intimidate peaceful protesters by surveilling, arresting and detaining them without due process — which he did immediately after signing the bill into law. A group of activists protesting the signing of the law were accused by soldiers of being part of the Communist Party of the Philippines and were then violently dispersed by police and military forces. Eleven of them have been detained without charges.
This new law comes as the Duterte Administration has been aggressively attempting to silence independent media outlets. Recently, a leading independent journalist in the country and one of the recipients of the 2018 Time Magazine Person of the Year was convicted of “cyber libel.” Last month, Duterte shut down the country’s largest broadcast network for being critical of his administration.