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Noisemakers assemble

An overhaul of the old ineffective law was also needed to prevent the country from missing its commitments to the global campaign against terror.

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The likes of left-wing Etta Rosales, bogus Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, hard-core yellow priestess Dinky Soliman and other characters associated with the former regime are converging against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Friday.

The hopeless detractors said the law was a stealthy maneuver to mask martial law, which they have been trying to peddle as the ultimate objective of the President.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who is now the figurehead of the yellow mob, said she was frustrated, concerned and fearful over the signing of the ATA, which she then indicated was surreptitiously done while the country is occupied with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The moment we are paralyzed by fear, the people who depend on us will suffer,” Robredo, who seems to be going by a script, said.

“The timing it was done amid the pandemic, the manner by which it was passed [and] for a law as important as this, the process was done just like that despite having contentious provisions,” she lamented.

Church leaders, who are on a long hiatus due to the community quarantine restrictions on mass gatherings, also found time to malign the measure.

Balanga, Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos said, “Our freedom of speech is now threatened, and we are now terrorized.”

“This Anti-Terrorism Act will not give us peace of mind but anxiety that it will be used, even abused, for us to be accused, arrested without due process or warrant,” he said in a statement.

What was apparent from the knee-jerk reactions were that many of the critics have not read the law or are clueless of the precedents.

The law is not a new one, but a replacement of the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, which was rendered inutile by the same forces now throwing brickbats on the ATA. Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said the ATA strengthened the previous anti-terror law, which aided rather than stopped terror acts.

Andanar described the HSA “as a dead letter law,” which “was severely underutilized.”

The law clearly defined which acts should be considered terrorism and which are not.

Those found committing acts of terrorism face life imprisonment and are not qualified for any type of reprieve.

Advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights are not considered terror acts, and this clearly confounds the claims of the detractors.

Local think tank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research said, despite the barrage of criticisms, the President signed the new law, which serves as a lawful instrument to fight terror “and not to cause terror.”

“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, or ATA, is not only mindful of the need to protect human rights. The ATA exists precisely because of human rights. The ATA fights terrorism as terrorism poses a grave threat to human rights, not only of the Filipino people, but also of the entire humanity,” it noted.

The research firm said an important feature of the ATA is the explicit recognition that “the fight against terrorism in the Philippines requires not only a legal approach but a comprehensive program.”

An overhaul of the old ineffective law was also needed to prevent the country from missing its commitments to the global campaign against terror.

Most countries with lesser problems on extremism have stronger anti-terror laws.

Terrorism’s threat is strongest in the country, and the Marawi City siege of 2017 proves that.

Still the opponents of President Duterte raise the specter of martial law.

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