The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) reiterates its call to scrap the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) of 2020 (Republic Act 11479) including its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) because they violate the people’s right to development.
The recently released IRR of the ATL has been criticized as worsening an already bad ATL. “The IRR did not correct the vagueness of the ATL, it added further to this vagueness even adding provisions and mechanisms not present in the law itself”, says Atty. Edre Olalia, President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
Among the objectionable provisions of the IRR is giving the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) the unilateral power to determine which organizations providing humanitarian services are legitimate and which are terrorists or supporters of terrorism. Rule 4.14 of the IRR reads: “Humanitarian activities undertaken by the International Committee on the Red Cross, the Philippine Red Cross, and other state-recognized impartial humanitarian partners or organizations in conformity with International Humanitarian Law, as determined by the ATC, do not fall within the scope of the crime of providing material support to terrorists penalized under Section 12 of the Act.”
The phrase “as determined by the ATC” is not present in the ATL and its inclusion arrogates to the ATC the power to decide on the character of humanitarian organizations and humanitarian services. This revision in the IRR gives the ATC even more powers than what it already considerably had under the ATL. It is maliciously designed to make it even easier to arbitrarily tag even duly registered civil society organizations (CSOs) doing development work and providing humanitarian services as providing material support for terrorism.
CPDG warns that this will impede delivery of much needed humanitarian services because the Duterte government and its security forces have already been red tagging so many non-government organizations (NGOs).
“Many of the CSOs red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) headed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) are long-established CSOs contributing to community development and building local capacities for self-sufficiency and resiliency”, says Liza Maza, CPDG spokesperson. “Their work includes promoting innovative community-based and -developed technologies in agroecology and renewable energy, setting up community schools enhancing the positive culture of Bayanihan, and many others,” adds Maza, “all of which improve their conditions, incomes and livelihoods”.
Among the CPDG members already red-tagged by the NTF-ELCAC are: Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE), Unyon ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Center for Children’s Rehabilitation (CRC), Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives (CCNCI), Magsasaka at Syentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), Mindanao Interfaith Services Incorporated (MISFI), Leyte Center for Development (LCDE), Citizens’ Disaster Rehabilitation Center (CDRC), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), and IBON Foundation.
These are all long-established CSOs with many decades of development work between them helping thousands of communities across the country. Their development work and humanitarian services span disaster relief and resiliency, livelihood projects, health and education services, capacity building, policy advocacy, and many others. Maza stresses: “Impeding the work of civil society is tantamount to violating the people’s right to development that NGOs and community organizations help deliver.”
CPDG also expressed concern about the relentless red-tagging and attacks on activists. The latest is the arrest of Beatrice “Betty” Belen, former Vice Chairperson of the Cordillera-based Innabuyog Alliance of Women’s Organizations, in Lubuagan, Kalinga on predictably trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. “This is exactly what we fear with the watered-down resolution by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council acting on the report by UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on the Philippines human rights situation,” says Maza.
CPDG has filed one of the 37 petitions to date at the Supreme Court against the ATL. CPDG filed the petition to assert the legitimacy of development work and to uphold the economic, social, and cultural rights of the people.
Maza asserts: “We will not allow the achievements from decades of empowering communities, organizing marginalized sectors, and building democracy to be lost. The government seeks to close democratic processes and civic spaces and subjugate the people. CPDG and the other petitioners are just a few among all those who believe in human rights and sustainable development and who will resist and overcome this worsening authoritarianism.” ###