Since the Philippine House of Representatives passed a new anti-terrorism law on June 3, protests have rocked the Philippines. The recent conviction of Maria Ressa, a famous journalist who covered the bloody war on drugs in the Philippines, is a chilling indication of how President Rodrigo Duterte will enforce the anti-terrorism law. As calls on social media to drop the law (#JunkTerrorBill) mounted, the Philippine Department of Justice announced on June 11 – the day before the country`s Independence Day – that protest rallies had been temporarily banned. Despite threats of arrest, hundreds of people continued to demonstrate against the law. An Ethiopian anti-terrorism law passed in 2009 mirrors Manila`s legislation: it criminalizes acts (such as writing, publishing, publishing or disseminating statements) that directly or indirectly “promote” terrorism and gives the police the power to detain suspects for forty-eight hours without a warrant. For years, this law has been used to imprison peaceful political activists, opposition members and journalists. Since the summer of 2011, at least thirty-three dissidents have been charged with terrorism. In Kafkaesque fashion, a well-known journalist was arrested as a terrorist for publishing an article criticizing the Ethiopian government`s application of the law to imprison journalists. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison and his newspaper had to close. In the Philippines, there are many competing struggles for the rights to self-determination and international terrorist networks. For years, the Philippine government has prosecuted suspected terrorists without an anti-terrorism law.
The absence of an explicit violation of punishment for acts of terrorism has led to a blurred distinction between punishing terrorists and punishing secessionists. In response to the public outcry that the Philippine government is violating human rights by unfairly punishing secessionists, the United Nations conducted an investigation. This investigation led to the Philippine government being placed on the United Nations human rights watch list. Philippine lawmakers passed the Human Security Act of 2007 (“HSA”) shortly after. This law codified acts punishable as crimes of terrorism. Since the passage of the HSA, five prominent interest groups have called on the Supreme Court of the Philippines to strike down the anti-terrorism law as unconstitutional because it is too vague and unfairly interferes with the rights of individuals. This commentary analyses the legality of the HSA. The Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 repeals the Human Security Act 2007 and amends some of the provisions and definitions of terrorism.  Senator Panfilo Lacson, one of the main authors of the Anti-terrorism Act, 2020, said the Human Security Act, 2007 was a “dead letter law” because it was “severely underutilized” because it resulted in only one convicted criminal and only one prescribed organization, Abu Sayyaf.  More than 1,000 students and human rights activists gathered at the UP Diliman campus on June 12, 2020, coinciding with the 122nd edition of the Up Diliman campus. Independence Day from Spanish colonial rule, which was called “Grand Mañanita”.
 They called on the government to “reject” the bill, fearing that it would restrict fundamental human rights and freedom of speech and expression. The rally took place despite the government`s ban on mass gatherings in general community quarantine in Metro Manila and other parts of the country due to the pandemic. Protesters were seen wearing masks and practicing social distancing.   Similar protests were organized by activists in various cities such as Baguio, Legazpi, and Cebu City. Protests have also taken place at other universities such as De La Salle University in Manila.  Activist Mae Paner was also present at the event, disguised as Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas, responsible for her birthday party on June 8. May 2020, which police called “Mananita,” faced controversy.   Think of Egypt, which passed an anti-terrorism law in 2015 that allows police to detain suspects for eight days without a warrant and criminalize incitement to terrorism “by any means.” After peaceful protests erupted in April 2016, Egyptian security forces arrested 382 people for incitement, posting fake news on social media and promoting terrorist crimes. .