It has been one year since the signing of the Anti Terrorism Law, and things have never been darker. The Anti-Terror Law (ATL) is merely an unconstitutional attempt of the state to silence their critics. Through this Draconian bill, government officials are free to pinpoint any individual of their choosing and paint them as “terrorists.”
With its vague definitions of “terrorism” as a whole, environmental defenders and activists can easily be tagged and manipulated as terrorists, leading to their illegal detention, and even their deaths.
In Duterte’s first three years in office, a total of 119 land and environmental defenders were killed. This number is almost twice as compared with the 3 years prior to taking the Presidential Seat. The statistics and the situation does not improve: in 2019 alone, 49 more environmental defenders were killed. Meanwhile, the 2020 lockdown worsened the numbers, as reports count at least 500 cases of human rights abuses.
The Philippines, primarily being an agricultural country, requires farmers and agricultural workers in order to thrive, and yet these workers account for 63% of total deaths.
On December 1, 2020, Kalikasan PNE was “red tagged” by government officials in a Senate hearing. In the same month, nine indigenous people from the Tumandok Tribe in Panay were killed by soldiers and policemen. These officials believed that the indigenous people were “supporters” of a communist rebel movement regarding a local dam project.
It is ironic that the ATL was drafted by the state to primarily protect individuals from terrorist and communist rebel groups. However, the statistics beg to differ: it is the state who abuses the ATL in order to protect themselves from truth tellers by painting their critics as terrorists.
YACAP stands in solidarity with the journalists, activists, and environmental defenders who choose to exercise and assert their right to freedom of speech everyday. We stand with the Filipino people in the rejection of a law that criminalizes truth-telling and advocacy.