[Statement] Anti-Terror Bill to Worsen Plight of Workers, Labor Rights Group Says -CTUHR

Anti-Terror Bill to Worsen Plight of Workers, Labor Rights Group Says

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights joins the various organizations and individuals in strongly opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) of 2020 and the efforts of the Duterte government and his cohorts in Congress to railroad this anti-democratic bill amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the deep economic crisis that the country is experiencing. The Center believes that this proposed law is intended to be used as a weapon against activists and critics, and not just real terrorists.

“What kind of government do we have? Did they really think that the people have lost their sense of critical thinking because of hunger and will simply bow down to this kind of law? We cannot fathom how they can stomach giving priority to railroading this kind of Bill instead of focusing on significant measures to combat COVID-19, such as free mass testing,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director said.

CTUHR believes that the Bill will result in more human rights violations instead of addressing the primary concerns of the people – healthcare, employment, food, transportation. “People are dying, losing their jobs, and are going hungry. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recently estimates that 3.2 million workers will lose their jobs because of the pandemic. And yet, you have these legislators who have the audacity to pass a law, because the President signed it as urgent,” Arago added.

The ATB, if passed into law, will repeal Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007. CTUHR also strongly opposed this law and called for its repeal, as it caused a drastic increase in the number of extrajudicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations.

The House of Representatives passed the Anti-Terror Bill on its Third and Final Reading on June 3, despite the strong opposition of the people against it. A day after it was passed in the First Reading, Carlito “Karletz” Badion, Secretary-General of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) was murdered in Samar. On the day that it was passed in the Second Reading, 6 jeepney drivers and members of PISTON were arrested, as they held a peaceful protest to demand that they be allowed to resume their livelihood. These people did nothing but dissent the injustices that prevail and yet they were treated like criminals, or worse, terrorists, even without the ATB. CTUHR fears that more dissenters like them will be penalized when this proposed law is enacted.

The ATB expands the already vague definition of terrorism; forms an Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) composed of cabinet officials with the power to order warrantless arrests; allows detention of suspects up to 24 days without a formal case; permits surveillance up to 90 days and intrudes privacy by allowing access to private communications, bank records and other personal information. It also criminalizes “inciting to terrorism” which may be abused against the people’s right to freedom of expression.

“The COVID-19 virus that disrupted our normal lives cannot be defeated by this Anti-Terror Bill. The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) coupled with the government’s incompetence have derailed the livelihood of millions of Filipinos and the economy itself. For the past 3 months, the people have relentlessly called for the urgent needs of the people amid this pandemic – free mass testing, protection of jobs and livelihood, safe workplaces and access to transportation, assistance for displaced and most vulnerable and respect for workers’ human rights. The government should focus its efforts on these aspects instead of wasting the people’s taxes on legislations that will do more harm than good.

CTUHR also expressed concern on how the ATB could be used against unionists and labor rights defenders. With the vague and broad definition of terrorism and the absolute power it gives the state forces that often figured in labor rights violations, this bill can be used against the labor movement. Organizing is already difficult now. ATB will surely make it more difficult, as workers expressing dissent even through social media can easily be tagged as terrorist activity and be penalized.

Throughout history, unionists and labor rights defenders have been perpetrated by the filing of trumped-up charges against them, red-tagging and other forms of harassment. CTUHR believes that the ATB if passed into law, will worsen the struggles of workers in pushing for their rights and demands. In fact, just a day after Congress passed the bill, streamers red-tagging the Solidarity for Workers Network in Central Luzon have been seen hanging in some streets of Bulacan and Bataan.

“The workers and the people should strengthen our solidarity in opposing this measure that is meant to curtail our rights. They have locked us down for 3 months, let us not let them lockdown our rights,” CTUHR ended.

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04 June 2020
Daisy Arago
CTUHR Executive Director
Tel # 0961 507 1418 / 7718 00 26

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