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'Terror Bill' Signed Into Law; 'Legalised' Indigenous Peoples And Human Rights Violations Feared

The human rights nightmare has now a face with the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Bill, international Indigenous Peoples (IP) group said, as the Philippine government announced that President Rodrigo Duterte finally signed the bill into law on June 2.

“If the Philippine government will remain deaf to the grave concerns by Indigenous Peoples (IP), ordinary citizens and civil society groups, and even the international uproar against this draconian law, then we are ready to step up our solidarity in defense of rights and freedoms,” asserted Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) which is based in the Philippines.

On the opening of the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet asked Duterte not to sign the said bill as it raises “concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.”

Nine UN Special Procedures also expressed “serious concerns regarding the protection and promotion … of fundamental human rights” on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in a recently published official communication to the Philippine government.

“Many of the Indigenous leaders, our member organizations, and indigenous communities have been targeted by the terrorist-tagging operations of State armed forces and by government officials. With this law, these attacks will be legalized and any safeguards will be removed especially for IP human rights defenders,” Longid added.

In 2018, Longid with several indigenous leaders were named in a petition by the Department of Justice to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorist organizations. Last June, the Cordillera police’s office issued a communication again implying her link with the revolutionary NPA armed group.

Longid feared that the law would be another weapon to silence critics of corporate and State-sponsored plunder of indigenous territories and resources. “Even the government commission NCIP supposedly looking at IP rights and defending ancestral lands has been in denial, if not complicit, to the murders, massive displacement and criminalization caused by the state’s counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism warfare,” she added.

“The world is grappling a global health crisis. The people are crying for justice over State brutality and disregard of human rights. And the government’s priority is a law legalizing state terrorism,” Longid added.

“International solidarity in calling to junk the Anti-Terrorism Bill, greater pressure for accountability for human rights victims, and broader and creative actions to expose the real situation of IP and marginalized communities” will be the urgent call and action. “It’s a big threat but our unity to struggle is bigger,” she ended.

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