US LAWMAKERS have asked the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to repeal the country’s newly signed Anti-Terrorism Law, which they said arms the state to stifle dissent.
US Representative Janice D. Schakovsky said they sent the appeal through Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 simply represents a new weapon in the administration’s campaign to suppress dissent and will only worsen attacks on the ordinary people in the Philippines,” Ms. Schakowsky said at a briefing late Wednesday.
“I along with 45 of my colleagues sent a letter this morning to the government of the Philippines,” she said.
The law allows an Anti-Terror Council made up of Cabinet officials to perform acts otherwise reserved for courts, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists. It takes effect on July 19.
It also allows the state to keep a suspect in jail without an arrest warrant for 14 days from the previous three days. The law considers attacks that cause death or serious injury, extensive damage to property and manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport and supply of weapons or explosives as terrorist acts.
“This law is over broad and we believe it is already being used to stifle peaceful dissent and target civil society including human and labor rights groups in the Philippines,” Ms. Schakovsky said.
“We fear it will also be used against anyone who protests against the government.” She asked American companies based in the Philippines to pressure the government to repeal the law.
Rep. Judy M. Chu, also among those who signed the appeal, said the letter was meant to put pressure on the Philippine government.
“It tells the Philippine government that we are watching,” she said at the same briefing. “We see the targeted killings of labor rights and human rights activists. We see the silencing of Rappler. We see the ongoing attacks against anyone who dared to speak out.”
“And we are telling them these outrageous attacks cannot stand.”
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto II said the US lawmakers were “misinformed.”
“They are misinformed,” he said in a separate online news conference. He said the Supreme Court wouldn’t be influenced by the congressional move in deciding on several lawsuits against the Anti-Terrorism Law.
Meanwhile, labor groups filed the ninth petition at the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the law.
In a 36-page petition, the Federation of Free Workers, Trade Union Leaders of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition and Kilusang Mayo Uno asked the court to stop the government from enforcing the law.
The law “carelessly runs contrary, disobedient, or is repugnant to the Constitution,” according to a copy of their pleading. The definition of the crime in the law is “vague and overly broad” and deprives people of their right to due process, they added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas