Independent think-tank IBON Foundation said the anti-terrorism bill, currently deliberated in the Senate, may be the final piece in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s formula in paving the way for an all-out authoritarian rule.
IBON research director Antonio Tujan said that the anti-terror bill, which seeks to impose severe punishment on groups considered by government as ‘enemies of the state’, will further stifle legitimate public dissent against the Arroyo administration while targeting members and supporters of progressive militant groups, especially the legal Left and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“Targeting so-called dissenters under the pretext of anti-communism and the war on terror would result in less political liability than attacking elements of the traditional opposition which would create a broader reaction from the elite,” Tujan said.
He added that as it is leaders and members of people’s groups opposing the administration’s corruption and anti-people policies are already being assaulted and killed allegedly by military and police forces, and paramilitary groups nationwide. “The anti-terror bill will only further worsen the human rights violations against these groups.”
Opposition senators in the Senate are also against the bill.
In a statement, Sen. Jamby Madrigal said the bill “in its present form legislates martial law. We cannot and shall not allow this to happen to our people. Not under [y]our watch, Mrs. Arroyo!”
Madrigal added: “We now call on all freedom loving Filipinos to take a principled stand against the Anti-Terror Bill. Huwag po nating payagan na bumalik tayo sa kadiliman at takot na dinala ng martial law. Panahon na upang tumindig at lumaban!”
For his part, Senate minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel said they cannot allow any flawed anti-terrorism law. He warned that such legislation “in the hands of unscrupulous leaders like the ones we have now, will be an added instrument of oppression.”