We, the faculty of the Department of Political Science of the Ateneo de Manila University, join the Filipino people in expressing their concern and dissent against the passage of House Bill No. 6875, named the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
As faculty, we draw from the Jesuit tradition of faith and justice, character formation, openness, and discernment that provides the foundation of our pedagogical vision. Our students are formed with the goal that they develop institutions of peace and justice, equity and sustainability, and inclusiveness that respect human rights. The Department thus views this bill as an example for our students and our people of how not to craft policy and how not to go about reforming our democratic institutions.
We acknowledge the long-term necessity of re-orienting our human security framework in the Philippines. We nonetheless register our dissent as the bill fails to make such reforms, at the cost of endangering our civil liberties and weakening our democratic institutions that are already in dire need of deepening and reform. The method by which the bill was passed through both chambers of Congress also does not inspire confidence in the capacity of our legislators to institutionalize greater inclusivity and participation in our democratic processes.
We remind everyone that public office is a public trust, and as such, an exclusivist approach to legislation and politics is fundamentally undemocratic. Many concerned sectors and experts have called on our leaders to prioritize mass testing protocols, to ensure that adequate supplies needed to fight the ongoing pandemic are available, and to mobilize the massive resources of our State to aid in the recovery of the most vulnerable and those whose livelihoods are affected by the pandemic. This bill, passed amidst this pandemic, demonstrates a failure to prioritize the common good of our people.
We would caution against a brand of leadership that drives the confidence and impunity of allies in Congress and their partisans in our security forces. We oppose a style of governance that prioritizes fear and ignorant obedience at the expense of solidarity that has led us to this crisis. This creates a political society where needed reforms and changes in our society and democratic processes are slow-going or non-existent. Citizens become disinterested or disaffected towards politics in a society marred by impunity, leading to the greater 2 deterioration of the mechanisms of accountability, transparency, and genuine solidarity in our political institutions.
The bill also endangers our rights as enshrined in our Constitution. Various sections of the bill places at risk of violation the right to due process, right against unreasonable searches and seizures, right against arbitrary detention, and free speech. Respect for human rights is a constitutive element of a functioning political society and a fair justice system. Furthermore, the protections for suspects under this bill, in the form of penalties and damage payments for wrongful arrests, have either been weakened or wholly removed.
The power of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate persons as terrorists under this bill, combined with the very broad definitions of what constitutes terrorism, does not contribute to our collective mission to deepen the democratic institutions of Philippine society. We echo the concerns raised by the joint statement of the Lasallian East Asia District and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.i The processes outlined in the bill as it currently stands relies on the exercise of a wide discretion of the members of the Anti-Terrorism Council. The lack of transparency in this process does not inspire confidence in the Philippine security infrastructure, already fraught with scandals and problems. In fact, we believe that all this will instead further enable abuse and preferential treatment in the implementation of the law.
The speed that the law was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives fundamentally belies the deliberativeness that our legislative branch should embody. The Senate and House chose to pass this bill without seriously considering the criticisms raised during its deliberations, especially by members of the opposition. The bill would have reflected its stated intention of reforming the Human Security Act of 2007, if it instead pushed for reforms based on good practices, such as strengthening greater community involvement and transitional justice mechanisms into our security processes.
Our legislators should strive for genuine consultation with peace and security advocates, and other sectors that would be affected by the bill. The fact that the lone Representative from Basilan, a place where the Moro people are ravaged by conflict and terror, voted No to the bill, speaks volumes as to the failure of this bill to take into account the realities of peace and security in our time.ii
Acts of terrorism against a society seek to rip apart the social connections between people that create a vibrant democratic society. Freedom in any society is a living reality that is created and maintained by our capacity and willingness to relate and work with and for one another in concert. This Anti Terrorism bill, with all its issues and the method by which it has been approved by our political leaders, ironically brings about the same terror that it purports to stamp out. We must defend democracy by remaining vigilant against these actions that threaten our capacity to become democratic in our way of life.
As advocates for institutions of peace and justice, equity and sustainability, and inclusiveness that respects human rights, we again state our strong dissent against the undermining of our democracy brought by the proposed AntiTerrorism Act of 2020.
The Faculty of the Department of Political Science Ateneo de Manila University – Loyola Schools
Carmel V. Abao, Ph.D.
Arjan P. Aguirre, M.A.
Benjamin Roberto G. Barretto, M.M.
Pilar Preciousa Pajayon-Berse, Ph.D.
Anne Lan K. Candelaria, Ph.D.
Hansley A. Juliano, M.A.
Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña, J.S.D.
Maria Elissa J. Lao, D.P.A.
Millard O. Lim, M.A.
Diana J. Mendoza, Ph.D.
Jennifer S. Oreta, Ph.D.
Oliver John C. Quintana, M.A.
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, Ph.D.
Miguel Paolo P. Rivera, M.A.
Alma Maria O. Salvador, Ph.D.
Benjamin A. San Jose, Ph.D.
Ricardo A. Sunga, III, Ll.M.
Javier Rico Israel R. Tionloc, M.A.
Benjamin T. Tolosa, Ph.D.
Gino Antonio P. Trinidad, M.A.
i Lasallian East Asia District and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus. Joint Statement on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. 05 June 2020. http://ateneo.edu/news/05-june-2020-joint-statement-lead-sjph-anti-terror-bill-2020
ii Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman (Lone District of Basilan). Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman (Basilan Lone District) On Voting Against the Anti-Terrorism Bill. 04 June 2020. https://www.facebook.com/mujivhataman.ph/posts/3435898376434213