Philippines President Duterte set to sign bill aimed at stifling dissent

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
Manila, Philippines Published: Jun 05, 2020, 09:09 PM(IST)

File photo: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

This anti-terrorism legislation is so broadly written that it is concerning because the police can arrest and detain people without a warrant hold them in custody without charges for 24 days.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is likely to sign the bill that will give powers to his administration to stifle dissent. 

According to the bill that was passed by the Senate in February, authorities will be given the freedom to detain suspects without a warrant for up to 24 days, arrest without warrant and detain people critical of the administration on the basis of social media posts. 

The bill has passed both houses of Congress and is nearing finalisation.

Also read | 'Systematic extrajudicial killings', 'near impunity’ for police part of Philippines’ war on drugs: UN

The United Nations is protesting against it and has released a scathing report with details of human rights violations under President Duterte including the extrajudicial killing of more than 8,000 people.

Even after years of international and domestic criticism, Duterte appears unfazed and wants to give the police a free-hand.

Also read | Philippines' Duterte threatens martial law-like virus crackdown

This anti-terrorism legislation is so broadly written that it is concerning because the police can arrest and detain people without a warrant and hold them in custody without charges for 24 days.

Duterte's notorious methods are well known. He won the Presidential election in 2016 after he pledged to kill 100,000 criminals in the first six months of his term.

He also promised to dump bodies in the Manila bay. The United Nations report has evidence to show Duterte did what he promised. Since mid-2016, thousands of people have been killed in the guise of war on drugs.

Many claim the police may have interpreted Duterte's high-level rhetoric as a license to kill. Suspects are forced to make self-incriminating statements or risk facing custodial torture.

Most victims in the drug war are young, poor, urban males. Duterte calls the Philippines a narco state.

The UN disagrees and says the prevalence of illegal drugs is lower than the global average.

Activists say the anti-terrorism law will only make it bloodier. They fear Duterte will appoint the anti-terrorism council which will suppress free speech and harass critics.

In the first four months of the year, during the pandemic, political opponents and NGO workers were charged for sedition and perjury and a major media network was forced to stop broadcasting.

In the government's defence, extremism was a problem in the country.

For five months in 2017, Islamic State militants had seized the southern city of Marawi. The government says it wants to avoid a repeat of that but Duterte's authoritarian ways are worrying.

During the pandemic, he wanted to impose martial law after failing to enforce a lockdown. Martial law has a horrifying history in the Philippines.

Thirteen years of martial law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos denied them basic freedoms. Duterte admires Marcos and calls him his idol. He is now walking in his footsteps. 

For critics, the message is clear: face arrest without a warrant and, be labelled a terrorist.
 

Read in App