Anti-Terrorism Law being Used vs Labor Activists, Must be Junked – Labor NGO

July 4, 2024

July 3 marked the 4th year of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020. The Rodrigo Duterte and now Ferdinand Marcos Jr governments have consistently weaponized it to attack labor and social activists. The ATA has generally been a minus, rather than a plus, to labor and human rights and must immediately be repealed or junked.

It can be recalled that the Marcos Jr government slapped two cases of terrorist financing – one against AMA-Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Jaime Paglinawan together with 26 NGO workers of the Community Empowerment and Resource Network (CERNET) in Cebu, and another against Unyon ng mga Panadero sa Gardenia Bakeries Philippines, Inc.-OLALIA-KMU vice-president Rhoel Alconera.

The charges against Paglinawan and colleagues and Alconera are based on testimonies of supposed witnesses who appeared to have been coerced to testify.

Paglinawan and 26 others were required to post a bail of PhP 200,000 (around USD 3,400) each on May 15-16, after the court issued warrants for their arrest on May 14. Despite posting bail, the Philippine National Police in Cebu issued a press release containing the mugshots of the 27 accused and claimied that they were arrested for terrorist financing. Some media outfits picked up the press release, even if its contents are mere fabrications.

The case against Alconera, which started in February, was already dismissed by the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 on May 8 for lack of merit. Despite this, Alconera contines to receive information that a motion for reconsideration will be filed by the prosecutors. He and his family continue to live in fear.

The ATA’s signing into law by the Duterte government highlights the fascist and anti-rights character of the regime. Its implementation by the Marcos Jr government belies this government’s claims of upholding labor and human rights and exposes the continuation of dictatorship in the country.

The Philippine government is using the ATA against the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Both are underground insurgent groups waging war in the countryside. Legal organizations are being maliciously tagged by the government as supporters of these underground organizations.

The government is exacerbating the threat of terrorism in the country, defined by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights as “the intimidation or coercion of populations or governments through the threat or perpetration of violence, causing death, serious injury or the taking of hostages.”