Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday assured law-abiding citizens they should not fear a new anti-terrorism law despite warnings that it could stifle political dissent and lead to more human rights violations.
In a televised address aired before dawn, Duterte said the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was the much-needed legal weapon that we need to fight terrorism.
“For the law-abiding citizen of this country, I am addressing you with all sincerity.
“Do not be afraid if you are not a terrorist, and you will not destroy the government, blow up a church or public utilities, just to derail the nation,’’ he said.
Duterte signed the law recently, in spite of appeals from various sectors for him to veto the statute, which criminalises incitement of terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations.”
It also allows the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without formal charges and empowers an anti-terrorism council to designate individuals or groups as suspected terrorists who could be arrested and surveilled.
Duterte stressed that if nothing bad happens, then there was no problem with the law, however added that “once you blow up a church, blow up a market, the right to defend itself accrues to the government heavily.”
“If you do that to the people, if you kill them wantonly, then I would take it as a right to kill you,’’ he added.
Groups of lawyers, academics and even lawmakers have filed several petitions at the Supreme Court, challenging the law’s constitutionality and seeking a temporary restraining order on its implementation.