“Duterte Marks Communist Rebels as Criminals, Declares Peace Talks On-Going”

Rodrigo-Duterte

While legal threats to the Anti-Terrorism Act escalated, President Rodrigo Duterte justified the contentious act, claiming it was not meant for law-abiding civilians but for communist insurgents and militant organizations blamed for bombings, mainly in Mindanao. He said perhaps they are a special species, democratic insurgents who have been battling the government for over 50 years and engaging in on-and-off negotiations. Duterte said that the communist rebels were terrorists.

Shortly before formally taking his oath as President, Duterte began peace efforts with the communist rebels and later directed ceasefires, freeing crucial political prisoners to partake in peace talks in Norway. But after fighting between state powers and the communist-led New People’s Army, the talks fell apart. Angered by the killing of troops, the President canceled the negotiations.

He added that the Anti-Terrorism Act was “one of the much-needed legal tools they use to counter-terrorism. He said the attackers were also those who set off bombs, mentioning the bomb explosions at the Jolo Cathedral in January last year that killed more than 20 people and injured more than 100 others.

The military blamed the Mindanao bombings on Abu Sayyaf and other groups that were allied with the Islamic State. Duterte said the legislation should not be used against anyone who did not intend to topple the government or to destroy public services. But one critic of the bill claimed that it was the common person that was in trouble and to begin with, the legislation as already written was unconstitutional. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has refuted claims that the law enjoyed the constitutionality presumption.

The assumption is generally, that a statute is lawful. In situations concerning the repression of free expression, however, the assumption is overturned since the law in dispute is believed to be unlawful, and it is the government’s duty to justify its constitutionality. He said that the Supreme Court ruled that a law challenged to impose prior restrictions on freedom of expression was presumed to be unconstitutional.

Lagman stated that he and three other organizations opposing the legislation in the high court “have argued that among the unlawful aspects of the 2020 ‘Anti-Terrorism Act’ is the criminalization of ‘danger,’ ‘proposal,’ and ‘incitement’ to commit terrorism, as it has coercive consequences that discourage the practice of freedom of expression and the right to dissent.

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