State terrorism in the Philippines – the deadliest country in the world for farmers – is one signature away to becoming law

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) slams the blatant railroading of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Its passage would further endanger the lives of rural peoples and food sovereignty advocates in the Philippines.

Prior pandemic, state-perpetrated peasant killings are already taking place, and they never stopped amid the global health crisis. Under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, at least ten farmers massacres have transpired – the 2017 Lake Sebu Lumad massacre, the 2018 Sagay massacre, and the 2019 Negros 14 massacre to name a few. Latest is the summary execution of five farmers amid pandemic, which happened on 8 May 2020 in Sorsogon, a province in southern Luzon.

No perpetrator was held accountable in all these needless killings. State forces have slain 251 farmers under Duterte’s term, nine of whom were killed while the country is in “community quarantine.”

Farmers and fisherfolks, who are often conveniently accused as communist rebels, are targeted for opposing landgrabs of state-backed development aggression projects and the militarization of rural communities.

The passage of the Anti-Terror Bill can only guarantee us more arbitrary redtagging and harassment, overkill mass arrests based on trumped-up charges, and continued spate of relentless killings besetting vulnerable sectors including the rural peoples and their leaders.

With or without the pandemic, Duterte and his military cohorts are bent on passing the Anti-Terror Bill. They have laid the groundwork to legalize state terrorism in the first four years of Duterte’s term: implementing Martial Law in Mindanao, deploying battalions in the provinces of Samar, Negros, and Bicol courtesy of Memorandum Order No. 32, and exploiting civilian institutions through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict via Executive Order No. 70.

The Duterte administration is holding on to fascism to preserve its reign especially amid a crashing economy and the growing dissent on the ground. While this is not surprising, it is still infuriating.

PCFS condemns the Duterte administration for taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic in pushing for such an atrocious law. It is already disheartening that the rural peoples were not provided with adequate social protection to cushion the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they are being stripped off the little legal protection that rural peoples have as citizens of this country.

With PHP 275 billion and emergency powers at his arsenal, topped up with PHP 87.34 billion net availment of external loans, the Duterte administration remarkably failed in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, improving public healthcare, and providing relief for the poor and hungry. The Filipino people are writhing from the pains of the militarist lockdown in the past two and a half months.

Unlike the dismal government response to the ongoing pandemic, plans for “counter-insurgency” and “counter-terrorism” are well-funded, comprehensive, and exhaustive. The backlash this Anti-Terror Bill is receiving today is not misplaced. In fact, it needs to grow.

PCFS joins the many voices in the international community in opposing the passage of this bill and in resisting the dictatorship being cemented by the Duterte administration. We urge lawmakers in the Philippines to retract the Anti-Terror Bill. They instead should work on the policies that will provide people’s legitimate demands such as accessible medical solutions and guaranteed people’s right to food.

We are one with Filipino farmers and fisherfolks who have had enough of the state’s human rights violations. We commend their militant actions in the exercise of their rights to civil liberties amid pandemic.

We welcome the recently released report of United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on the human rights situation in the Philippines. It stated that the Anti-Terror Bill “[risks] eroding constitutional and other legal protections,” “dilutes human rights safeguards,” and “may violate the principle of legality.” We fully support the recommendations it laid down to address the “persistent impunity and formidable barriers to accessing justice” in the Philippines.

Lastly, we call other social movements, civil society organizations, and fellow advocates for human rights and food sovereignty to express their support to these recommendations and to show their solidarity with the Filipino rural peoples who are braving state repression in asserting their rights.

Junk the Terror Bill!
Resist state terrorism!
Stop the attacks!
Hands off PH farmers!

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One reply to “State terrorism in the Philippines – the deadliest country in the world for farmers – is one signature away to becoming law”

  1. […] incidents provide a glimpse of the worse to come in the Philippines once the Anti-Terror Bill lapses into law in a few […]

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