Over the weekend, netizens who used the hashtag #JunkTerrorBill found fake Facebook accounts using their names. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), without even conducting an investigation, dismissed it as a mere glitch. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, primary author of Senate Bill 1083, even had the gall to blame critics.
Who has the intention, the machinery and record of utilizing social media for political motives? None other than Duterte and his minions.
The clone accounts failed to douse the anger of the public. The arrest and detention of six jeepney drivers and eight Cebu protesters coupled with stories exposing government’s outright incompetence and neglect such as the tragic death of Michelle Silvertino further fanned the flame. The stealthy transmission of the bill to the Palace for Duterte’s signature and the House leadership threatening legislators who withdrew their votes of losing their committee posts only prove how effective the protests have been.
A day before the scheduled protest of various groups, Duterte’s mouthpieces were in chorus. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said mass protests remain prohibited under the general community quarantine. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also declared that protests are ‘temporarily banned’ due to COVID-19.
As the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers pointed out, the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens are not suspended even during a pandemic. Roque and Guevarra could not use local ordinances or even Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan To Heal As One Act) and Republic Act 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act) to justify infringement on free speech, free expression and free assembly. The 1987 Philippine Constitution remains the highest law of the land.
Suddenly, the Duterte administration which has refused to conduct mass testing, which has detained over 50,000 “quarantine violators” and cramped them in jail, which has failed to curb the spread of COVID-19 but allowed businesses to resume operations without providing efficient mass transportation and protection for thousands of workers, is now concerned with the contagion. Never mind if the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement upholding the right of the people to protest so long as precautions are observed.
The very act of spreading fear reveals this administration’s fear of the power of the people. All attempts at suppressing civil and political rights show that the people’s resistance is gaining ground. And Duterte has no one to blame but himself, for being too ambitious to becoming a tyrant, for being too incompetent and for being too insensitive to the people’s urgent needs.
Resist we must. If Duterte signs the bill into law, we must fight with even more vigor and determination. We must defeat state terror with courage, ingenuity and love for our country.