Leila De Lima, lawyer, human-rights activist and Senator, in Rappler (June 13, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Philippine News Agency)
Is the anti-terror bill protecting us from terror and fear? Or normalizing them? If this bill passes, no part of any person’s life is secure anymore, as it gives the government the power to track down or follow anyone, and to tap, listen, intercept or record any message, conversation, discussion, spoken or written words, including computer and network surveillance, and other communications of persons.
The government says that there are safeguards in place, including judicial authorization. Yet the law allows so much discretion on the executive, including in the determination of what constitutes terrorist attacks and who are terrorists and terrorist organizations, that it is easy to imagine a scenario where even the courts might not be willing, able, or prepared to stand as safeguards against abuse.
So, what is the danger? First, this is a criminal statute. It puts people in danger of losing their liberty, possibly for the rest of their life. People have the constitutional right to know what acts are being punished before they are penalized from doing them. Second, given the vague definitions, it could be weaponized as a tool of harassment against those that government wants to silence.
History has taught us that repressive regimes can and will abuse any power they can get, even to the point of using it against persons who are merely exercising their legitimate rights and freedoms.
Of course, we need to improve our response to terrorism. I applaud those who wish to amend the bill to protect the people. But the government cannot protect the people by perpetually and absolutely placing their lives under threat. Otherwise, the government will be doing a better job than the terrorists.