Group tells Duterte to repeal ATB, prioritize COVID-19 response

By: Doris C. Bongcac - Editor/CDN Digital | July 04,2020 - 08:46 AM

A group of medical practitioners in Cebu has joined the call for the repeal of the Anti-Terror Bill which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on Friday. Several protest actions were earlier held in Luzon, as shown in this file photo, to protest the passage of the bill.| Inquirer Photo

MANDAUE CITY, Cebu — The Health Alliance for Democracy  (HEAD) – Cebu Chapter has expressed condemnation on the signing of the Anti-Terror Bill into law while it also stands in unity with other groups and individuals who are calling on the government to repeal the bill which President Duterte signed into law on Friday.

In a statement, the group that consists of doctors, nurses, midwives, health professionals, hospital workers and community health workers, health science students and health advocates, said that the bill was unnecessary “amid the ongoing global health crisis that the Philippines is battling now.”

“This bill comes at a time when clearly the government has no adequate response to the Covid-19 crisis which has resulted to more people suffering, especially the poor and marginalized. As the people have yet to see actual leadership amidst crisis, the government is now giving its people a whole new level of disaster in the face of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” their statement reads.

“As the country is facing an impending economic recession as a result of the global health crisis, it seemed that the government’s priority is to come after those people who criticized the president, his incompetence and anti-people policies. The government should know that expressing dissent is not terrorism, it is a basic human right. Thus, the proposed law is a clear violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”

HEAD – Cebu Chapter reiterated its demand for the government to urgently act on the coronavirus disease pandemic, a public health emergency that has severely impacted the lives of the Filipino people.

The pandemic, the group said, has resulted in mass unemployment, overworked health professions with inadequate support from the government, and the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths and cases due to the overwhelmed and ill-equipped health system in the country.

“This is more urgent than a law that would only worsen the situation amid the pandemic,” the group said.

“The country is in a public health emergency and it needs inclusive and pro-people solutions to address the needs of the communities. Flattening the curve of Covid-19 cases does not require a new law violating people’s rights and freedoms. HEAD Cebu Chapter demands public health solutions, not human rights violations. Repeal Anti-Terror Bill Now!”

In their statement, HEAD quoted a report on the killings and human rights violations in the Philippines which the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council.  It said that the proposed law “dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant.”

“These vague definitions may violate the principle of legality under international law… And now you add to this the context of the Philippines where a lot of human rights organizations are routinely being labeled as terrorists – this is very worrying,” the UN Human Rights Office said in a press conference on June 4.

HEAD added that “it is just quite ironic that the Duterte administration urgently certified and signed an anti-terrorism bill but remains answerable to the Filipino people for its bloody war on drugs and other human rights violations – an act of terrorism.”

“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeks to amend and repeal the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007. Among the most controversial provisions of the bill include the warrantless arrest of suspected “terrorists”, prolonged detention period of up to 24 days after the warrantless arrest from the current 3 days under the HSA, prolonged length of time of surveillance of up to 90 days, creation of an Anti-Terror Council (ATC) that has the power to order arrest and detention of people found to be “terrorists” – a measure reserved for the courts, and removal of the provision on payment of Php500,000 damages for any wrongful detention made by officials,” their statement read./dbs

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