The Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao (UGAT) joins the Filipino people in calling for the junking of HB 6875/SB1083 or “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020”.
UGAT, the national organization of anthropologists in the Philippines, expresses serious concern with the potential security repercussions of this legislative bill on anthropology researchers and practitioners, and on the communities they work with. UGAT has long borne witness to the ‘red-‘ or ‘terror-tagging’ by the state of those engaged in development work, especially with and for disadvantaged communities vulnerable to large-scale projects that are inappropriate, unsustainable, and destructive of the environment and their way of life.
The so-called Anti-Terrorism Act paves the way for the perpetuation and legitimation of this utterly unacceptable and reprehensible practice, by its apparent refusal to recognize the difference between terrorism, on one hand; and the people’s constitutional rights to free speech and press, and to assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances, on the other. By allowing the state, if it so wishes, to label any act of free speech, dissent and activism as terrorism, the bill if enacted will threaten all sectors of society only seeking to protect their lives and interests, rights and freedoms.
UGAT thus rejects a bill that attacks constitutional and legal safeguards against the abuse of power, that criminalizes and penalizes our legitimate right to dissent, and that further exacerbates the hardships faced by the Filipino people.
Instead of providing timely, appropriate and inclusive solutions to the more urgent problems of widespread poverty and inequality—exacerbated by a pandemic that has only exposed the numerous political, economic and cultural weaknesses of our country—the state chooses to use this time to further pander to its own anti-democratic, militaristic and paranoiac inclinations.
What the people need now is a government that is competent in managing crises, not its officials’ whims or wants; that embraces free and public debate, not its totalitarian ambitions; and that offers a holistic and inclusive vision of development, with utmost consideration for class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and other factors that accentuate the problems of each individual, group, or community.
UGAT thus enjoins all anthropologists to critically engage and/or debate with government officials; to collaborate with colleagues and concerned stake-holders in discussing and opposing the bill; and to support the rights and interests of marginalized groups, particularly the indigenous peoples and communities all-too-often sidelined and silenced in the name of ‘national development’ and ‘national security’.
UGAT calls on the concerned government officials to rethink their support for this defective, despotic and dangerous bill, and to join the Filipino people in rejecting it in its entirety.