Hundreds of activists took to the streets after an almost three-month lockdown to oppose the Duterte regime’s “Anti-Terrorism” Bill. Approximately one thousand rallyists converged at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman in Quezon City, and several others in Laguna last June 4 to oppose the said bill which was then being railroaded in the lower house. Protests were also mounted on June 5 in Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod and Butuan; and on June 6 in Naga and Legazpi. Simultaneously, numerous online forums and protests were also conducted. In Cebu, the police dispersed the peaceful protest of around 40 activists, eight of whom were arrested.
The Anti-Terror Bill was passed by the Senate early in February with a vote of 19 in favor and two against. This will replace the extant Human Security Act with worse provisions on warantless arrests and detention against anyone labeled by the state as “terrorst” or a “terrorist supporter.” The people strongly oppose the said bill as its definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist” is too broad. They also oppose the additional powers that the bill will grant to the police and military. The Senate bill, which replaced earlier House versions and was certified as urgent by Durterte, was passed without allowing any amendments. The version hurdled Congress with an initial 173 votes in favor of and 31 against the said bill, and 29 abstentions. Following backlash, several congressmen were compelled to withdraw their “yes” votes. As of June 6, 13 more congressmen still need to withdraw their “yes” votes to block the bill transmission from Congress to Malacañang.
The demand to junk the bill continues to gain ground. Campaigns are being spearheaded by national democratic organizations and democratic parties in the lower house. Youth organizations, lawyers, journalists, church people, administrators of Ateneo and De La Salle universities, Moro students, civic groups, UP and Far Eastern University professors, and an association of private groups are among those who expressed their opposition to the bill. Eight big business groups, including the Makati Business Club, also issued a unified statement against the bill. In the internet, the slogans #JunkTerrorBillNow and “Activists are not Terrorists” trended and were used by celebrities, musicians, atheletes and other personalities. The group Human Rights Watch also criticized the bill on June 4, as well as the the United Nations Human Rights Office after it issued its report on the grave human rights situation in the Philippines.
Simultaneous with the clamor to junk the bill, activists also called for mass testing (#MassTestingNow), and Rodrigo Duterte’s ouster (#OustDuterteNow).
Free the Cebu 8
The protest dispersal at UP Cebu and the arrest of seven activists and a bystander last June 5 by state forces was met with widespread condemnation. The activists and their supporters stressed that police and soldiers are not allowed to enter the campus premises, unless invited by the university, under existing accords.