Another group rejects proposed anti-terror bill

Another group on Wednesday rejected the proposed measure seeking to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law, saying it’s riddled with constitutional infirmities.

In a statement, the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL) claimed that the proposed legislation ‘expanded’ the definition of terrorism, which may allow the government to extensively crackdown on its critics.

“The danger therein lies with how the government can construe legitimate acts of dissent or opposition within these definitions – it gives the government almost free reign in determining who are ‘suspected terrorists,'” CLCL said.

“Even ordinary citizens airing their grievances against government on social media may fall within its ambit,” it added.

Earlier, the National Union of People’s Lawyers thumbed down the proposed law, saying it would only worsen the present administration’s abuses.

“The bill, should it become law, will only serve to worsen the climate of impunity that has made the Philippines fertile ground for extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests, and crackdowns against activists and progressive organizations and even ordinary citizens,” the NUPL said in a statement.

“As such, there is an urgent need to stop the passage of this bill at the earliest opportunity. The dangers it poses are incalculable, and the risks are too great for people to turn a blind eye under the misguided assumption that their own freedoms would not be affected,” it added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified House Bill 6875 as urgent, which means lawmakers can pass the measure on third reading immediately after it is passed on second reading. This House bill reportedly adopted the Senate version that was passed on final reading in February.

After the bill was certified as urgent, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is “as good as passed.”

But the latest among the abuses, according to the NUPL, were those that took place during the quarantine periods amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

The group claimed that there were tons of complaints allegedly committed by the police, military and even barangay officials during the implementation of quarantine protocols.

“Worst, this government has used the health emergency as a backdrop, even a justification, to whip its various agencies into action for the singular purpose of clamping down on dissent. From the NBI eagerly arresting people without warrants because of their social media posts, to the NTC shutting down ABS CBN, to the police and barangay officials berating, arresting, if not beating up, activists and volunteers who participate in relief efforts for poor communities or the legions of famished poor who have no choice, the government has shown no tolerance for criticism. And they take their clear cue from above,” the NUPL said.

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