We, the undersigned, strongly register our opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill No. 6875) recently approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading and the earlier similar bill approved by the Senate (Senate Bill 1083) last February.
While we acknowledge the need to fight terrorism, we find the passage of the bill ill-timed. As our people continue to struggle in coping with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our attention, efforts, and resources should focus on fighting the virus and in helping our people. Many have died and continue to suffer from the pandemic. Our health systems and personnel are stretched to their limits. Many have lost jobs and are hungry. At this time, our priorities should be shoring up our health system, providing support to our health workers, ensuring food for our communities, stimulating the economy and providing jobs for our people. To be sure, it is our lawmakers’ sworn duty as public servants that these very real and terrifying threats to our health and economy receive more of their dedication and attention than hastily passing a bill that could, with its haphazard construction, wrongly impair sacred constitutional rights.
Instead, the Anti-Terror Bill adds to people’s anxieties and fears. Many of the provisions under this bill are couched in language that is sweeping and equivocal as to be easily subject to misinterpretation and abuse. Worrisome are the expanded and vague definitions of a “terrorist;” the powers given to the Anti-Terror Council to designate a group as a “terrorist group;” the weakening of the protection of one’s privacy and the safeguards against arrests and detention without warrants. Instead of being a measure to protect our people, in the wrong hands, this bill can be used to oppress our people.
We therefore appeal to the President to listen to the pleas of our people who are already burdened by the pandemic, and to veto this particular version of the bill. We can then all work together to craft a better version that can uproot terrorism while addressing the people’s concerns about their basic rights. By so doing, we will not be divided in countering terrorism.
Finally, we call upon our people to remain vigilant, to keep abreast of what’s happening, and to safeguard our rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.
Our people are under siege on several fronts. May God grant us wisdom and courage in this time of need.