A letter to the justices of the Supreme Court: Declare anti-terror act unconstitutional | Inquirer Opinion

A letter to the justices of the Supreme Court: Declare anti-terror act unconstitutional

/ 05:01 AM February 04, 2021

Dear Your Honors, Justices of the Supreme Court,

We, members and networks of the National Clergy Discernment Group, a group of Catholic priests and religious spread all over the Philippines, express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of different faith-traditions and secular movements in opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, also known as Republic Act No. 11479. In so opposing, we add our reasoned conviction to these voices that urge you, members of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, to declare the unconstitutionality of RA 11479.

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Terrorism and acts of terror do not exist as a national reality in the Philippines, notwithstanding the very broad definition of terrorism in RA 11479. If there are identified terrorists doing acts of terror, as identified by other nation-states and the United Nations, in the Philippines, then these could only be a limited one confined to some small areas in Mindanao. One cannot make a law for the whole for the sake of a tiny exception. One cannot make a law for a non-existent phenomenon.

RA 11479 in fact, by broadening the definition of terrorism and terrorist acts, creates and conjures terrorism and terrorist acts. Notwithstanding its expressed exemptions of terrorism in Section 4 of this law, still this exceptionalism can be curtailed, denied, and suppressed under the same provisions of Sec. 4. The inconveniences created by advocacies and protest actions in various forms could be construed as acts intended to cause death, damage to public facility, interference with critical infrastructure, even with the use of weapons and inducing calamities. Experience from the period of martial law and the dictatorship until now must teach us a lesson: The imprisonment, disappearances, and deaths of many workers for change, peace-builders, ecological advocates, and human rights defenders continue to occur, as committed by state security forces and clandestine death squads with impunity.

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The Anti-Terrorism Council created by RA 11479 is at the heart of our opposition. The ATC exists as a plenipotentiary body with the powers of the surveillance and intelligence team, the police and the military enforcer, the prosecutor and the judge, the jailer and the punisher—all at the same time.

RA 11479 legitimizes the terror experienced by the people at the hands of the state, its security forces and the death squads. Pointing at the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines as terrorist enemies of the state, the military and police have lumped all legal, non-combatant and unarmed members of the national democratic movement as conspirators with the CPP-NPA-NDFP, which seek the overthrow of the state. In the guise of containing terrorist acts, they have massacred the Tumandok tribes defending their ancestral land, massacred peasants crying out for land reform, jailed workers demanding just family wages, assassinated peace negotiators and human rights and ecological defenders, bombed the farms of the lumad and closed their schools to throw them out of their land and to make them docile, uncritical slaves of mining, logging, and plantation companies.

And now, the red-tagging is obscenely led by the elements of the military and police, targeting universities and schools, isolating their members for the kill, and to turn bastions and arenas of critical thinking, new ideas, and actions for freedom into prisons of submission and unfreedom. Soon, all types of opposition, critical thinking, and movement for change will be classified as terrorism and terrorist acts.

And so today, we ask you to invoke the wisdom of history. “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist; they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”—Pastor Martin Niemöller.

Please, declare RA 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, unconstitutional. Now.

National Clergy Discernment Group

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TAGS: Anti-Terrorism Law, clergy, Supreme Court, unconstitutional
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