Focus on the Global South joins other progressive groups and movements in strongly opposing the imminent passage of a new anti-terrorism bill in the Philippines. That the proposed law was railroaded in both Houses of Congress—with Duterte himself certifying the bill as urgent—as millions of Filipinos continue to grapple with the long term impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic speaks of the despotic and authoritarian character of this administration. The normalization of violence, the criminalisation of dissent, the demonisation of human rights defenders and now the institutionalization of the State’s assault on human rights and fundamental freedoms will forever be etched in our collective consciousness as the enduring legacy of the Duterte regime.
The fear that the law will be used to designate protests and other legitimate expressions of dissent and civil disobedience in the exercise of our rights as terrorist acts is not without basis. For decades, law enforcers themselves have taken an active role in harassing and killing progressive groups under the guise of maintaining peace and order. Under the Duterte administration, they have taken an even more aggressive stance by assuming what is supposedly the role of the judiciary to determine who is guilty of transgressing the law and imposing the penalties for such. Their actions have been enabled by the Duterte administration, which has shown its capacity and willingness to exert violence against the people.
It is a government at war with its own citizens. The casualties from its failed “Oplan Tokhang” or anti-illegal drugs campaign, estimated at 30,000 people, continue to rise; its pro-corporate economic agenda continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of farmers, fishers, workers, indigenous peoples, and women; and its inefficient, militaristic, and heavy-handed response to the COVID-19 public health emergency has exacerbated the health, political, economic, social, and cultural impacts of the crisis.
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