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Anti-terrorism law is retribution for defending human rights

Statement on the occasion of the first oral arguments by the petitioners vs Republic Act No. 11479 before the Supreme Court

We gather today with dozens of petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Law to push back yet another despotic attempt of the Duterte government to obliterate our democracy, silence our voices and return us to authoritarian rule. We are here to challenge the government before the Supreme Court in order to protect what is left of our hard-fought freedoms and eroding liberties. Each one of us is fighting for our very lives.

Why are we fighting for our lives? Should not government be protecting us? Far from it- the government plots, schemes, conspires to put a noose around our necks while forcing us to stand on the jagged blades of its incompetence, corruption, lies and abuse.

Whichever way we move, we risk death.

That is how the Anti-Terrorism Law is shrouding our people. As our public officials bury us deeper into poverty, hunger and debt, our means and spaces for petition, to seek assistance, to demand change have steadily diminished. In their place, Congress enacted intimidation, persecution and fear. In their place, Duterte enforced deadly REPRISALS.

Last year Human Rights Watch reported that killings went up by 50% during the pandemic, while we are still under various lockdowns. Earlier the UN Human Rights Office reported “that between 2015 and 2019, at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in relation to their work”. The Philippines remains the most dangerous for environmental and land rights defenders.

With the new law these figures can only be expected to worsen, as the Anti-Terrorism Law removed most remaining obstacles to the wholesale decimation of dissent. It has trained Duterte’s militarist, sexist and violent governance to target everyone who disagrees with his policies, or questions his actions. Far from addressing terrorism, it is meant to punish the people for their activism, their boundless search for better lives.

The Duterte appointed justices of the Supreme Court may rule against our petition. However, far from being cowed, we continue to stand and PROTEST. We raise our fists in DEFIANCE. And we MARCH. Together and united in solidarity, we will DEFEND and RECLAIM our rights, our dignity, our future.