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Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Philippines) -
Violence Against Human Rights

The globe today faces an astounding amount of societal issues. Violence, oppression, terrorism are among a few. Minority groups (like Shincheonji, a South Korean church) experience daily threats to their religious freedoms and human rights. Women faced increasing violence at home due to the rise of COVID-19. Other such issues, unfortunately, continue to plague the world. Thankfully, many governments are taking action on a few of such issues. On Saturday, July 18th, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was put into effect in the Philippine country. At face value, anti-terrorism is a name that means well but a closer examination reveals a threat to human rights.

The passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act ignited huge criticism from the Filipinos because the bill shifts the power to favor the government officials. Prior to the AntiTerrorism Act, there was the Human Security Act of 2007 which, if weighed against the current bill, seems to favor the balance of power between government and the people as opposed to lifting up the one at the cost of the other. One of the biggest concerns for the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act is that anyone who is suspected to cause terrorism could be jailed without charge for even as long as several weeks. As a result, many citizens have petitioned to overturn the new law.

The Philippines is a democratic and republic country in which the government works for the good of its citizens by equally dividing its power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In its constitution, drafted in 1987, sovereignty resides in the people. This new law is perceived by the people to go against this very statement. This sets back the work of the Filipino public, and even the aid of outside peace groups such as HWPL, an peace advocacy group affiliated to Shincheonji, who have worked to end terrorism and restore peace to the land. 

The Anti-Terrorism Act was put in place in an attempt to combat the Islamic militants who have been at a long battle against Filipino armed forces mainly in the south island of the Philippines. Much of the activities associated with the group have been considered terroristic. This was why the Human Security Act of 2007 was also put in place. In both laws, “terrorism” had to be defined in order to properly deter any such acts. However, while the former law used a very narrow definition of “terrorism”, the new law employs a much broader definition that casts a bigger net. To some, it may seem that the new law is a better safeguard to terrorism but to others, it opens the door to wrongfully accuse citizens, particularly Filipino activists, of committing something they did not do.

One of the more criticized aspects of the law is the warrantless arrest which allows suspects to be jailed for 14 days and put under surveillance for 60 days by the police or military which is a serious consequence especially for people who could’ve been wrongfully accused. If the suspect is concluded to have been wrongfully accused, they would also not be compensated for being wrongfully imprisoned, as it was for the former law. 

Since the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is in its nascence, such foreseeable downsides are still conjecture. However, this is enough for citizens to rally against the new law unfolding before their eyes.

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