Four Years of State Terror

Four years ago today, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte introduced Republic Act No. 11479, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, with the stated intention of preventing, prohibiting, and penalizing acts of “terrorism” in the Philippines.

The implementation of the act resulted in massive human rights violations, further perpetuating the forced migration of Filipino people to work and live in precarious conditions here in Canada and around the world. 

Former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte speaking about the Anti-Terrorism Act in July 2020

Only the president-appointed Anti-Terrorism Council holds the power to designate people as “terrorist individuals” without any legal recourse to lift this designation. This law also permits the detention of suspects without a warrant, effectively becoming a state weapon against dissent.

When the law was introduced in 2020, the National Federation of Peasant Women, AMIHAN, foresaw the potential for it to be weaponized against activists and organizations. Their fears have been realized as red-tagging has only grown more rampant.

Amihan and allied organizations marched against the proposed anti-terror bill in Quezon City on June 4, 2020

The Philippine government has been labelling activists and human rights defenders as communists, a practice confirmed by Cristina Palabay, Secretary-General of the human rights alliance Karapatan, during the recent ICHRP national assembly in Montreal. She highlighted how red-tagging and the anti-terror law have been used to justify widespread human rights violations. 

Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration, the situation has worsened. According to Karapatan, during the first 1.5 years of his tenure, there were 89 extrajudicial killings, 207 illegal arrests, 13 enforced disappearances, 22,391 bombings, and over 1.6 million instances of threats, harassment, and intimidation.

Violation of Civil and Political Rights
Under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Government
Data as of December 2023 (c/o Karapatan)

The findings of the recent International People’s Tribunal (IPT) have shown that the Philippine government continually uses anti-terror rhetoric to repress its citizens. When people speak out against grave human rights violations and violations of their economic, social, and cultural rights, they face severe repercussions under the guise of anti-terror campaigns. 

As Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle stated after the guilty verdict was announced “Both [the Duterte and Marcos Jr.] regimes have implemented US-directed so-called ‘counterinsurgency’ operations against civilians and non-combatants in the Philippines and their repression of Filipino activists and solidarity allies abroad viciously terrorize the people, in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)” .

This situation in the Philippines mirrors the struggles faced by Palestinian activists and supporters worldwide. In both contexts, governments have weaponized anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent and silence those fighting for their rights. Pro-Palestine supporters are frequently labelled as terrorists, a tactic used to delegitimize their cause and justify repression. This parallel underscores a global pattern of using anti-terrorism rhetoric to undermine genuine movements for liberation and human rights.

Allied organizations gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate office in Toronto to protest the Anti-Terror law on July 8, 2020 (c/o Philippine Reporter)

As we mark the fourth anniversary of the Anti-Terrorism Act, it is crucial to reflect on its impact and renew our commitment to human rights defenders in the Philippines. The international community must hold those responsible accountable for these abuses and support the Filipino people’s fight for a just and lasting peace and an end to US Imperial domination.

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