On the day of the oral arguments on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, development workers of the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) who filed the 35th petition against the law appealed to the Supreme Court to heed the call of the people to junk the so-called terror law and to uphold democratic rights including the right to development and humanitarian assistance.
“The provisions of the ATA 2020 particularly Sections 12, 13, 26, 27 and 29 endanger the work and the lives of development workers and will deprive underserved communities their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights”, said Rochelle Porras, CPDG Vice-President and signatory to the petition.
State forces have been relentless in their attacks against non-government organizations and people’s organizations critical of government policies and programs. This includes malicious red-tagging of individuals and their organizations.
Several CPDG member organizations have been red-tagged for their advocacies. This includes opposing destructive large-scale mining operations and large dam projects that displace communities and destroy the country’s remaining watershed and forests, opposing the rice liberalization law that affects farmers’ incomes and compromises food security of consumers, and others.
Development workers have been jailed on trumped-up charges such as Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinosa of the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) or disappeared such as Elena Tijamo of the Farmers’ Development Center (FARDEC).
“The humanitarian and environmental work of our members is impeded, and our lives are put in danger, including even of the communities we serve,” adds Porras.
Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) expressed deep concern about the oppressive law’s impact on environmental protection and the lives of environmental defenders. “Our biodiversity is endangered, and its defenders are also in danger due to the Anti-Terror Law. The red-tagging and arrests inhibit our work on environmental protection and rehabilitation,” she stressed.
The killing of nine (9) Tumandok leaders, including local government officials, and the incarceration of 16 other Tumandoks on December 30, 2020 in Capiz and Iloilo for their opposition to the Jalaur Dam shows the state’s terrorism against Filipinos struggling for their democratic rights to development and governance. Continuing military operations after the killings even forced entire communities to evacuate.
Atty. Teofisto Melliza, one of the counsels of CPDG says: “Organized terror springs from the State and the people, civilians they have sworn to protect, are victims. Forced evacuations, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and searches, trumped-up charges, planting of evidence, and extra-judicial killings are the handiwork of government security forces who have the temerity to red-tag civilians, their very victims, posthumously labeling them ‘terrorists’.”
The law also undermines the people’s democratic rights to peaceably assemble and seek redress from the government for other legitimate grievances. This includes demanding accountability and transparency for the many corruption cases committed by top government officials and for Pres. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. The violence has expanded to include activists and development workers as well as lawyers, media, medical workers, workers, farmers, and even local government officials accused of being so-called Communist-terrorist sympathizers.
“Walang demokrasya kung may nagtatakda kung sino, ano at paano maging demokratiko o hindi (There is no democracy if someone is dictating who, what and how it is to be or not be democratic),” says Dr. Roland Tolentino, CPDG President.
Sonny Africa, Executive Director of think-tank IBON Foundation, said: “We have to be hopeful that the highest court of the land will step up to rein in the Duterte administration’s hunger for the power to freely crack down on everyone daring to oppose it. If it isn’t struck down for being unconstitutional, the Anti-Terrorism Law will be the capstone of the regime’s rule by law and a great leap forward for the dark forces against economic and political reforms.” The CPDG is among 37 petitioners asking for junking of the ATA 2020. They held a picket protest in front of the Supreme Court on the day of the oral arguments against the oppressive law to urge justices to decide in favor of democracy and human rights. #eof#