Thoughts on the Anti-Terror Bill

Despite the current health crisis that the world is facing right now, the country’s policymakers still push for the approval of the controversial House Bill (HB) No. 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. President Rodrigo Duterte already certified the bill as urgent and urged the congress to fast-track its process. HB 6875 is a similar version of the bill that the Senate passed in February. The Senate version was adopted in the House committee level on May 29, 2020. RA 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 has been repealed just to give way for this bill. 

In the past weeks, it caused a stir to many Filipinos, as they denounced it as a “tool for repression.” Many expressed their concerns on social media, citing the bill as “unconstitutional” which hampers freedom of expression, speech, and dissent, and arresting the suspected terrorists without a warrant, among others. The hashtag #JunkTerrorBill became trending in the Philippines, along with the line 'ACTIVISM IS NOT TERRORISM.' 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque insisted that there are no "Draconian provisions" in the measure, which were mostly based on the rules of other countries. In an interview over ANC, Roque said the public, particularly lawyers, are over-interpreting the bill when they said that those going on strike, supporting its participants and organizers, and speaking against the government will be arrested. “Yes, they are [over-interpreting]! Because the right to strike, again, is protected by the Constitution,” he said. 

“When we talk about possibilities, it’s unlimited. But that’s precisely why we have the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights limits the extent that Congress can provide for conduct and if it infringes on the minimum standards set by the Bill of the Rights, it will certainly be declared unconstitutional by the courts,” he added. 

Roque advised those who have questions about the constitutionality of the law to challenge it before the court. The Palace official said that compared to the anti-terror legislation of other countries, the one that the Philippines has looks tame. 

My 2 cents for this matter 

The bill is good considering the country’s brutal history of terrorism. But it should not be fast-tracked and considered reassessing the bill. Based on my understanding of it, some sections contradict each other. Section 4 and Section 9, for example, has contradictory definitions that need to be reevaluated. I may not be overly critical of the current administration’s policies and programs but I’m afraid it might misinterpret my personal opinions or my writings – whether in this current administration or the succeeding one. I might also rethink my support for particular advocacy or advocacy groups in the near future because of the said bill. Since I’m an advocacy blogger/writer who features different advocates or individuals from the different political spectrum, as well as advocacy-related stories (sometimes includes left-wing organizations or those individuals who subscribe to Marxist ideologies), I may (re)consider the manner of my writing or the person I will interview which clearly violates my rights as a Filipino citizen, according to the Philippine Constitution. 

Furthermore, the bill also removes the P500, 000 fines per day that a person is wrongfully detained for supposed terrorism. Knowing the history of suspected terrorists in the country (especially in Moro communities) this bill would tolerate the abusive acts of the authorities. 

I hope our legislators should suspend this bill for the meantime and reevaluate the matter. They must reconsider the valid points presented by various sectors. There are other policies that need to prioritize in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

photo courtesy of PPAB

Other thoughts 

I also gather other opinions of some personalities and organizations regarding the controversial bill. These are their views: 

Lacson said that the concerns being raised by human rights advocates had been adequately addressed during the committee on national defense and security public hearings, as well as the debates and interpellations in plenary. 

"As a responsible member of the community of nations, we are duty-bound to improve upon our laws toward ensuring we are able to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions, meet international standards, and fulfill state obligations with the UN while putting in place safeguards against possible abuse.” 

“We need a strong legal structure that deals with terrorism to exact accountability, liability, and responsibility. Those who have committed, are about to commit, or are supporting those who commit terroristic acts should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly." 

    – Sen. Panfilo Lacson (former police chief and current chair of the Senate Defense                     Committee) 


The Human Security Law was blamed for being weak. It was said that the Marawi sieged and Jolo bombing and even Mamasapano could have been prevented. Hello!!! First, the Human Security Act was made weak because Congress then did not think that we even need such a law. The crimes included in the Human Security Act were already covered by our existing laws, especially the Revised Penal Code. It was the U.S.A that wanted it then as part of its propaganda on “War on Terror.” The Philippines was then part of the coalition of the willing. For the Marawi sieged and Jolo bombing, it was not a problem of law; it was a problem of intelligence gathering. For Mamasapano, I don’t know how the Human Security Law could be blamed. 

While we all should condemn terrorism, there is a need to strengthen and professionalize our security sector, especially our intelligence capacity. Blaming the law for our failure to run after terrorists is a lame excuse. 

    – Prof. Mario “Mayong” Aguja, Department of Sociology, Mindanao State University &                 former member of House of Representative (during 13th & 14th Congress, 2002-2007)


Last night, the near entirety of our Congress betrayed us to the hands of a President bent on establishing a dictatorship. 

House Bill No. 6875, itself an adoption of Senate Bill No. 1083, labeled by the Administration as its Human Security Act of 2020, was railroaded on third reading without genuine consultation and consideration of the country's actual security and human rights situation. Its colloquial name, the Anti-Terror Bill, is a more apt negative description of its objectives. 

Throughout its tenure, the Duterte Administration has only known one thing: to kill and silence dissent, even as it is causing monumental damage to the life, liberty, and economic well-being of the Filipino people. 

One would think that the Administration would finally see sense, and consider listening to social groups willing to help address our still precarious public health situation, in the wake of the dismal showing of the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed to stem the tide of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, as disaster exploiters are wont to do, the Duterte regime arrogated power into itself without knowing what to do with such vague and over-mighty authority. Rather than enabling local government innovation, it stamped its foot on its institutions and resources. When people sought to improve mobility by promoting bike lanes and sustainable transport, it dismissed and even threatened to charge them for thinking outside the box. When different sectors of society sought to extend aid and relief to vulnerable sectors during the lockdown, they were red-tagged, harassed, and imprisoned. 

Under the vague and broad powers of this Anti-Terror Bill, the Administration will continue to do this. They will resume killing, harassing, and inconveniencing us, while they gloat in special treatment for their allies. Just in the last few weeks, activists criticizing the Administration have been killed. Innocent citizens who have had their fill and blurted out sentiments of outrage on online platforms have been arrested and intimidated. 

There is no other way to put it: the scourge of the Filipino public right now is not just COVID-19. We have another plague, a cancer that is spreading in the nation - AUTHORITARIANISM. Those who support and enable it are a curse to the Filipino people. 

We will never allow them to stifle our voices. We can and should continue to speak truth to power. We will continue to act and bring sensible people to heel. 

They will try to stop us, but we will fight to deny them that satisfaction. ### 

    - Official statement of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa released         from their Facebook page, dated June 4, 2020.


The bill does not direct policemen to violate the law, so these concerns of police brutality are exaggerated. I've heard valid concerns about this bringing up the risk of profiling Muslims and harassment of activists, especially in Metro Manila. These are, however, local problems, and should not define policy - the solution is to fix law enforcement in locales like Metro Manila, not stifle national policy. Terrorism is a real problem, especially here in Mindanao, but Manilenyos and Manilenyo-wannabes who have never suffered from it are trivializing its dangers. This is why I think Mindanao should separate to form its own country - it can focus on its own problems because under the Manila-centric status quo, people are literally dying here but they think in Manila that Coco Martin's career is more important. 

    - Karlo Antonio Galay David, Writer, and Local Historian


Personally, I'm not afraid of this bill since I'm not a terrorist. Yes, this bill is a priority, but not in this time of the pandemic. The government should prioritize other important bills such as the "Heal As One Bill" or the pressing concerns of the health and education sector. 

    - Fulung Romy Martin, DepEd Sarangani


Two years ago, I have been part of a National Fact-Finding Mission in Sultan Kudarat, a program on documenting the current situation of Lumads on harassment and militarization. While taking off on the area, we were barred in numerous checkpoints, checked our identification cards, and underwent surveillance by Philippine Marines. Upon interviewing bakwits (Internally Displaced Persons) intimidation and oppression are prevalent in the community which forced them to leave their lands. With this, the struggle both by the team and Lumads connotes the abuse of power in authority for their self-interest. 

Moreover, in the fight against COVID-19, legislators filed for the passage of 'draconian' Anti-Terror Bill and certified as urgent by the President, rather than focusing more on the economic, physical health, and mental health problems of the nation. The timing is certainly controversial as we are in the middle of the pandemic. 

The bill is too broad on defining terrorism which could potentially affect basic human rights. This bill, if passed into law will just pave the way on widespread red-tagging on mostly IPs and Moros, as well as to silence critics of Duterte on his incompetency by easily charge as inciting to sedition and arrest without warrant; hence, I say no and protests against the proposed Anti-Terror Bill. 

I'm no supporter of terrorist groups neither an enabler. I support the vision of ensuring public safety against terrorism but this bill, ironically, encourages abuse of authority. 

    - Vincent Kynth Baliguat, President of Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic         Rights (STAND), MSU GenSan 


It is a punishment that we don't deserve. We have given the state enough of our tax money to combat lawlessness and terrorism. Why should we allow it to ask for more - in the form of surrender of our most treasured and protected freedoms? It should be the people who should be asking the state for a full account of how it spends our money and why the less stellar performance in prosecuting suspected criminals and terrorists. 

There is no shortcut to effective law enforcement and counterterrorism. Definitely, not at the expense of our civil and political liberties and never at the altar of expediency and impunity. 

The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has only succeeded in punishing freedom-loving citizens by sowing more fear among us amid this horrible pandemic that grips our nation and the world. If it becomes a law, it will imprison us forever into deadly silence. 

      - Arnold Romero, a law student at MSU College of Law 


With the persistent impunity in the country and the kind of political climate that we have, I don't think Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) could curb terrorism in the Philippines and cage ONLY the real terrorists given the deliberate red-tagging of critics and activists by the current administration. 

ATB orders the prolonged detention in a maximum of 24 days for the "suspected terrorist" and can be jailed up to 12 years. Friends, with what is happening today where one can easily brand another as a terrorist in just a whim; this is dangerous especially to those who have been red-tagged. 

More so, ATB removed the fine of P500, 000 for every wrongful arrest of the arresting officers. This might give a narrative — arrest all you want; besides you will not be fined. ATB also lessens the accountability of the abusing law enforcement agents and military men by lowering their number of years of imprisonment. Not to paint our cops as bad but record reveals that Philippine police are known for planting evidence. This casts doubt in the enforcement of this bill if passed. 

We can't blame our people for not trusting this bill considering the administration's bad human rights records. I support the effort to counter-terrorism and violent extremism but not to the expense of violating certain human rights (e.g. warrantless arrest) and passing a bill that is open for abuse. 

This is my protest, I say #JunkTerrorBill. 

    - Rhoda May Ebad, Environment Cluster Head, Sarangani Local Youth Development                 Council


The anti-terror bill is obviously against the critics and dissent. It's not really serving its real purpose as an anti-terrorism policy. The Malacañan Palace is just showing its true color on this matter as they declared such as an "urgent bill." They [Government] are really afraid of the public opinion because when we are going to assess the bill, it's not about the terrorists but about the dissent who are against the national government for being inconsistent, insensitive, and incompetent in these trying times. 

What we need for this pandemic is compassion and empathy. What we need at this moment is effective and competent governance. We don't need an anti-terror bill because it's not the solution for the status quo. Obviously, it is irrelevant and useless. Our fellow Filipinos are suffering from lack of resources especially financial, the economy is sinking, the COVID-19 cases is getting bigger. We need a clear and comprehensive mechanism for this crisis, we don't need conceited leadership that's anti-people, anti-dissent, and anti-Filipino. 

    - Moe Maulana Mamadsul, Member, Palimbang Youth Parliament 


“We support a just, humane law that will combat terrorism and aid in our efforts toward a more harmonious and peaceful society. We regret that this is not the anti-terror bill. We reject,” they said in a statement initially signed by 40 people. 

“We condemn terrorism. However, as lawyers, students of the law, and human rights advocates, we likewise know all too well that overzealous desire to capture the enemy, when sanctioned by law that is bereft of any procedural and substantive safeguards to protect the innocent, is just as dangerous to our lives, liberties, and freedoms,” they added. 

“In a legal and social environment that already tolerates de facto warrantless arrests against Moros, this law legalizes it. Without any safeguard against unlawful arrests, state agents will not only be authorized but also emboldened to trample on our freedom. Law enforcers need not fear any repercussions if they wrongly deprive citizens of their liberty,” they said. 

[Bangsamoro lawyers, law students reject anti-terror bill. The signatories include Bangsamoro government Attorney General Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba, Rasol Mitmug Jr, and Anna Basman of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, and Abdulnasser Badrudin, Chairperson of the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission.] 

Read the full statement here: 
Bangsamoro lawyers, law students reject anti-terror bill


Update: With the bill now on his desk, Duterte can sign or veto it anytime to reflect the executive branch's amendments. If no action is taken on it, the bill automatically becomes law in 30 days.(source)



House Bill (HB) No. 6875

Sotto: Anti-terrorism bill 'good as passed'

Palace: People over-interpreting Anti-Terror Bill; right to free speech, strike, still guaranteed by Constitution

Bangsamoro lawyers, law students reject anti-terror bill