NUPL, too, says fight ‘ain’t over yet,’ vows to contest anti-terror law’s legality
MANILA, Philippines — Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act, a lawyer’s group believes that the fight is not yet over, vowing to challenge the legality of the law.
According to lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), they would exhaust all possible steps to oppose it.
“It ain’t over yet. We will not cease to exhaust any and all legitimate steps and platforms to challenge this draconian law,” Olalia said in a statement shortly after it was announced that Duterte signed the law.
“This, without doubt, is the most unpopular and perilous piece of legislation that could ever be pushed by a government that is fixated with the potion of power,” he added.
Earlier, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed to INQUIRER.net that Duterte has signed the law, despite stiff opposition from critics, human rights organizations, and international bodies about possibilities of it being used to silence legitimate dissent.
After news broke that Duterte signed the controversial measure, activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan urged the public to continue speaking out, vowing to continue criticizing the administration on issues that might need calling out.
The Anti-Terrorism Act has drawn attention from various circles due to claims that it might be weaponized against people opposing administration policies, as people believe it blurs lines between critics and terrorists — similar to what United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
Just this Wednesday, Bachelet called on Duterte to refrain from signing the bill for this reason. Meanwhile, other personalities like Vice President Leni Robredo also questioned the timeliness of the bill, which was passed while the country is grappling with problems brought by COVID-19 pandemic.
But for Senators Panfilo Lacson, Vicente Sotto III, and other supporters of the said bill, Duterte’s signing is very timely as it amends the Human Security Act of 2007, which is allegedly prone to abuse by terrorists.
Terrorism has been a growing threat in the Philippines, which faced several armed uprisings in the past — from Muslim rebels in Mindanao pledging allegiance to various extremist groups and the communist insurgency in the countryside.
In May 2017, Marawi was laid to siege by militants from the Maute group, resulting in a battle that lasted for over five months.
While critics have condemned the law, Lacson and other supporters of the bill, like Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, have insisted that there are enough safeguards to prevent abuse of human rights.
Olalia said, however, that the government would come to understand that people do not want the Anti-Terror Bill once the public pushes back.
“In time, we will look back to this day of infamy and say the unbridled and terrorizing power of the government will always bend and retreat eventually when the people push back hard enough,” he noted. [ac]
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