Karapatan called the ATC a ‘copy-paste’ of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that ‘incites violence’ now legitimized by the Anti-Terror Law.
By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — Activists, lawyers and human rights advocates warned about the implications of the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) designation of 19 individuals as terrorists on Wednesday.
Renato Reyes Jr. of progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said during Bulatlat’s Twitter Spaces, May 13, “We did not know the process they [ATC] went through. It was so arbitrary. ..There was no due process basically. It is very dangerous not just for activists but for anyone.”
Reyes said the designation is ‘worse than red-tagging’ as it does not only entail the freezing of the accused individual’s assets but also destroys their reputation.
Reyes also said that ATC designation makes way for further harassment of the accused individuals without factual grounds.
“Once you have a terrorist label on you, they can do many things. It is the most disturbing part, how it can be used to further attack peace consultants and other people the government deems undesirable,” Reyes said.
Krissy Conti of Public Interest Law Center (PILC), a group of lawyers representing seven peace consultants included in ATC’s list, said the designation is “technically just name-calling” because of the absence of any judicial proceedings backing it.
The list, however, similar to government-issued lists, can lead to arrests and killings, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.
Palabay pointed to the proscription case filed by the Department of Justice in 2018 that originally contained 649 names petitioned to be tagged as terrorists under the Human Security Act. Seven individuals from the list were killed, including peace consultant Randy Malayao, elderly couple Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, peasant leader Randall Echanis and human rights defender Zara Alvarez.
Palabay called the ATC a ‘copy-paste’ of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that ‘incites violence’ now legitimized by the Anti-Terror Law.
The ATC list includes three peace talks panel members, including NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, and ten NDFP peace consultants, three of whom are currently detained for common crimes.
“They are afforded protection under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) but their being on this list puts them at a greater risk of being harmed violently including those who are in prisons because they’re being held captive already,” said Palabay.
Fides Lim, wife of peace consultant and political prisoner Vicente Ladlad, said the lives of those who are already detained are ‘very fragile’.
Lim shared that Ladlad suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on top of his old age.
“Not a day passes that I don’t worry for Vic… I am very worried for his safety, security and above all health,” Lim said.
Lim also said relatives of other political prisoners have come under direct threat and harassment, such as Lengua de Guzman, daughter of Rafael Baylosis.
Ground for junking anti-terror law
Reyes maintained that the ATC designation strengthens the petitions filed in the Supreme Court to determine the unconstitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, and highlights the need for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against its implementation.
“We have to fight hard to junk the anti-terror law and dissolve the Anti-Terrorism Council,” Reyes said.
The designation also shows how the Anti-Terror Law is being used to quell dissent and freedom of thought, Palabay said, pointing out that peace consultants included in the list were working towards proposals regarding social, economic and political reforms in the peace negotiations with the Philippine government.
“It [anti-terror law] criminalizes aspirations for social change,” Palabay said.
She also added the anti-terror law was deliberately made to be vague to encompass all forms of dissent or exercise of political beliefs.
“Many of us, in one way or another, want a policy change… but by merely thinking about it or calling for it on any platform… the law is used to prevent the people from exercising their rights,” Palabay said.
Xandra Casambre, daughter of peace consultant and political prisoner Rey Casambre, said peace consultants like her father dedicate their lives to studying the material conditions of ordinary people in order to craft and forward proposals that are scientific.
She pointed out that the Philippine government is also involved in the process of crafting policies in the peace talks.
“Why did the Philippine government turn its back? The proponents of Anti-Terror Law are there to preserve the status quo,” Casambre said.
Reyes said the people shouldn’t let ATC’s list discourage them from speaking up and hamper the fight against the anti-terror law.
“Let’s not give a free pass to senators and representatives that voted for the terror law. We will hold them accountable come next elections,” Reyes said.