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Against the Terror of Anti-Terror | International

The Philippine government is another step closer to revealing its true self: an undemocratic, oppressive entity ready to protect and serve the interests of the powerful, wealthy, and privileged few. Before there was talk of lockdowns and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the issue of updating the Human Security Act, a law defining the parameters of terrorism. After many days and weeks of politicking, grandstanding, and red-tagging, Congress unveiled the 2020 Anti-Terror Bill.1

In it, the government aims to strip whatever semblance of constitutional liberties and rights are left after the Duterte administration’s stints into extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses, that have claimed upwards of 5,000 lives and left indelible marks on the lives of countless Filipino families.2

On the 28th of February 2020, the Senate passed their version of the Anti-Terror bill, with 19 senators voting yes, and only 2 voting no.3 Debate still rages in the House of Representatives on its merits and its dangers,4 however, as of the 29th of May, two congressional committees approved the Anti-Terror Bill.5 As the people of the archipelago face the greatest health crisis of this century without mass testing, public safety, and financial stability, Congress is trying to take advantage of us while we are down and already suffering from pandemic and the excesses of government.

A History of Insurgency

Different insurgent groups exist within our country, whose goals aim to threaten and change the status quo — to overthrow the people who benefit from it: the current ruling class. The most prominent of these groups are the Bangsamoro separatists (such as the MNLF and MILF), the Islamic fundamentalists (such as the BIFF, the Abu Sayyaf, and the Maute Group)6 and the Marxist-Leninist parties engaged in armed struggle (the CPP-NPA-NDF and remnants of MLPP-RHB).7

These sets of militant organizations with their own allegiances and motivations have been operating for decades across the archipelago, challenging government power in rural and urban areas around the country.

It is in this landscape of insurgency that in 1996, then-Senator Juan Ponce Enrile introduced a bill that would create a legal definition for terrorism, and outline what the police and military can or cannot do to catch and prosecute convicted “terrorists.”8 A “watered-down” and “toothless” version of this bill became the Human Security Act, signed into law by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007.9

However, the rhetoric since then has evolved as Rodrigo Duterte became the President of the Philippines. Duterte has condoned and even called for the extrajudicial execution of alleged drug users and pushers as part of his campaign against illegal narcotics.10 He also told soldiers to shoot female rebel combatants in the genitalia, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.11

Meanwhile, police and military forces regularly illegally detain dissidents, regardless of their affiliation or intention.12 There are even cases where farmers, workers, and activists are murdered as part of “anti-subversion activities.”13 Worse still, indigenous Lumad ancestral land across the country are being occupied illegally, while atrocities against their communities continue to be perpetrated.14

Left and right, in the name of public safety and order, the current administration has committed grave violations of human rights. Civil and military officers even called for the restoration and enhancement of laws and measures to make their jobs easier, presumably so that they could claim more victims and plunder more territory. This included the push by Secretary Año to bring back the Anti-Subversion Law that specifically targeted communists and those with communist sympathies.15

In this context, one cannot help but be skeptical about the government’s motivations in changing the definition of terrorism, and extending the punishment to be meted out to suspects and convicts under this bill.

Reading Between the Lines

In the Senate, this bill was authored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, to “provide a strong legal backbone to protect our people from the threat of terrorism, and at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.”16

Terrorism has been given a different definition under this bill. Simply, terrorism is any organization of people proving to be harmful to the social, cultural, and economic structures of society, capable of causing harm to property or personage, and inciting other people in joining their cause.

Under the proposed law, suspected “terrorists” can be held for 60 days without an arrest warrant. Aside from this, a 60 day period can also be granted for digital surveillance, meaning any gadget connected to the internet, a phone, a computer, and appliance can be spied on, with a simple suspicion by an involved police or military authority. This basically means that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and even freedom of conscience can be violated as soon as any investigator deems a person or a group “terrorist.” Anything suspects do can be considered a “terroristic act” and will be subject to the state’s extrajudicial ways and means.

Once convicted, those who will “propose, incite, conspire, and participate” in the “planning, training, and facilitation of a terrorist attack” face life imprisonment. The same punishment goes for any “recruiters and active supporters of a terrorist organization.” Lesser sentences are given to those who “threaten to commit terrorism, incite others to do so, voluntarily join any terrorist group, or be an accessory in any acts they do.” In short, anybody remotely related to any “terrorist organization” can be charged with a crime under this act.17

Overbroad and Overpowered

We can all agree that safety of the public is always the concern of our society. Our safety and the safety of our friends, our family, and our communities have been part of the Filipino psyche for centuries. Once this welfare has been violated, we come to each other’s aid, and struggle to restore it to them. An injury to one is an injury to all.

However, the government has consistently shown itself as the primary violator of our freedom, our security, and our right to live. Whether it be on issues of labor, civil rights, the indigenous peoples, or even human life, the State continues to side with the powerful and supports Capital, the wealthy, and the privileged.

Yet, the State itself has the audacity to declare what is a public threat, what is terrorist or not. Under this bill, any organization can be dubbed terroristic as long as there is enough “evidence” to secure a conviction. Anyone can be convicted as a terrorist just because they called to oust the current president, joined a rally that suddenly became a “serious risk to public safety,” or even shared posts or messages that are remotely critical of the government. They can be detained for as long as the police or military would need to build a falsified, trumped-up case against them.

For years, activists have been discriminated on without any proof from the government. Students, labor leaders, and even indigenous elders from Mindanao have been harassed and persecuted for their views and beliefs. If the Anti-Terrorism Bill passes, anyone the regime considers an enemy can be silenced with practically life imprisonment. No wonder why many people consider this bill as a Martial Law in all but name.

The Terror in Anti-Terror

Mikhail Bakunin once said that:

“The human being completely realizes his individual freedom as well as his personality only through the individuals who surround him, and thanks only to the labor and the collective power of society.”18

This means that freedom is only achieved when all people are themselves equally free. Freedom can only be achieved when a person’s beliefs and actions are recognized by their fellowmen. The fact that our conscience can be arbitrarily punished by any leader in government means that freedom can be punished for being in the way of greed for power.

Once we start thinking about this reality, it then dawns upon us that we have never really been free. We may have freedom to post online, to make our opinion and dissent heard, and to act according to our beliefs and interests. However, as soon as we point our fingers to those in power and disclose their weaknesses and faults, they will do everything in their power to silence us, and hide it from plain view. For years, this facade of democracy reigned over the archipelago. In reality though, it is nothing but a game the rich and powerful play to become even richer and stronger. This bill merely shows us the rules they want to play on.

A society that is libertarian, a society that respects liberty, does not rely on organizations that say they protect and serve us, only to break up protests, discriminate based on sex or race, and kill in cold blood. It recognizes and respects the autonomy of each person, the ability of each person to think, speak, and act however they want. As such, the power to protect themselves and those they care for from the threat of terrorism, perpetrated today by cops, bosses, and government officials.

We have a long way to go before we can even ponder on what we should do to build a better society. Today, we see what little freedom we have left collapse into authoritarianism and fascism. We have seen Bolivia, the United States, and Hong Kong. If this bill is not junked, we could see it too in the Philippines. This is not just an issue for Filipino libertarians and anarchists. This is an issue for everyone in the archipelago, regardless of age, sex, religious belief, or political affiliation. If the State can take away from us, how more are they willing to terrorize us further? Besides, how can we trust fascists to tell us who are the real terrorists?

Written by Malaginoo
Original post can be found here on Bangilang itim’s website.
Bandilang Itim aspires to end the atomization imposed upon us by capitalist society, an alienation that separates us from each other. Bandilang Itim aims to be the banner that rallies together libertarian socialists in the archipelago known as the Philippines.

  1. See a report on the proposed law: Neil Arwin Mercado, “Longer warrantless detention among features of Lacson anti-terror bill.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 02, 2019. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1172687/longer-warrantless-detention-among-features-of-lacson-anti-terror-bill []
  2. See a list of some of the victims: Jodesz Gavilan, “LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte’s drug war.” Rappler. October 21, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/179234-minors-college-students-victims-war-on-drugs-duterte []
  3. Op. Cit. Neil Arwin Mercado, “Longer warrantless detention among features of Lacson anti-terror bill.” []
  4. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels OK non-contentious provisions in anti-terror bill.” Philippine News Agency. March 10, 2020. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1096093 []
  5. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels approve anti-terror bill.” Philippine News Agency. May 29, 2020. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1104372 []
  6. See the report: Agence France-Presse, “Tracing back the Philippine Muslim conflict.” Rappler. October 7, 2012. https://www.rappler.com/nation/13759-tracing-back-the-philippine-muslim-conflict []
  7. See the report: Alan Robles, “Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency.” South China Morning Post. September 16, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3027414/explained-philippines-communist-rebellion-asias-longest-running []
  8. Janess Ann J. Ellao, “Human Security Act: ‘Draconian, Fascist.’” Bulatlat. August 11, 2007. https://www.bulatlat.com/2007/08/11/human-security-act-‘draconian-fascist’/ []
  9. GMANews.TV, “Arroyo to sign proposed anti-terror law Tuesday.” GMA News Online. March 5, 2007. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/33045/arroyo-to-sign-proposed-anti-terror-law-tuesday/story/ []
  10. Sofia Tomacruz, “Duterte: It is my job to kill.” Rappler.com. March 10, 2020. https://www.rappler.com/nation/254037-duterte-says-job-to-kill []
  11. Paterno Esmaquel II, “Duterte defends ‘shoot in the vagina’ remark.” Rappler. February 26, 2018. https://www.rappler.com/nation/196966-duterte-defends-shoot-female-rebels-vagina-remark []
  12. See for example the harassment of mutual aid activities during the pandemic: Rambo Talabong, “10 feeding program volunteers arrested in Marikina.” Rappler. May 1, 2020. https://www.rappler.com/nation/259615-feeding-program-volunteers-arrested-marikina-may-2020
    See also the harassment of benign May Day protests: Eimor Santos, “Cases filed vs. 18 ‘protesters’ arrested in Quezon City.” CNN Philippines. May 2, 2020. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/5/2/Alleged-Labor-Day-protest-Quezon-City-cases.html []
  13. See for example a report on the killings perpetuated on the island of Negros: Ronalyn V. Olea, “Negros killings, ‘a war against unarmed civilians’ — groups.” Bulatlat. July 27, 2019. https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/07/27/negros-killings-a-war-against-unarmed-civilians-groups/ []
  14. See for example the report: Cristina Rey, “Increased militarization under martial law threatens Lumad teachers in the Philippines.” Intercontinental Cry (IC). July 15, 2017. https://intercontinentalcry.org/increased-militarization-martial-law-threatens-lumad-teachers-philippines/ []
  15. Janella Paris, “Proposed anti-subversion law a ‘repressive weapon’ – law group.” Rappler. August 17, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/nation/237963-law-group-says-anti-subversion-law-repressive []
  16. Op. Cit. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels OK non-contentious provisions in anti-terror bill.” []
  17. Taken from the contents of the bill itself. See: Senate Bill No. 1083 “The law on the prevention of terrorist acts of 2020.” https://senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=18&q=SBN-1083 []
  18. Mikhail Bakunin, “Man, Society, and Freedom.” The Anarchist Library. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/michail-bakunin-man-society-and-freedom []
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Against a Quarantine with Martial Law Characteristics | International

The Opportunism of Martial Law
In March 2020, the people of the archipelago known as the Philippines were alarmed at the rate of local transmission of the disease known as COVID-19. On March 12, police and military forces were mobilized to enforce a community quarantine for the whole of Metro Manila scheduled to start on the midnight of March 15. This quarantine was later generalized for the whole island of Luzon, a population of some 53 million souls. That the mobilization of the state’s apparatus of violence was more noticeable than the mobilization of medical and social resources is telling of the administration’s priorities.

A regime of violence is in place. Soldiers with assault rifles set up checkpoints; one questions the necessity of assault rifles against the coronavirus—do these people plan to shoot it? At these checkpoints, some women report being sexually harassed. Local police and Barangay officials took it upon themselves to creatively experiment in punitive measures like caging alleged lock down violators in a small cage. A police officer was recorded threatening to shoot residents for purportedly breaking lock down while hitting residents with a stick in a Muslim community in Quiapo. A homeless lola was violently arrested for being outside during curfew hours—essentially arrested for being homeless! Houses are still being demolished during a time when people urgently need homes to stay in. A teacher and her son in General Santos were arrested without warrants over Facebook posts. A congregation of people looking for relief goods in Barangay Bagong Pagasa were arrested. The National Bureru of Investigation is subpoenaing people for “unlawful utterances” on social media. President Duterte went on record threatening warrant-less arrests against “disobedience” and in a later speech threatened to shoot people for going out of their homes. Indeed, someone was shot by police at a Bulacan checkpoint, the police washing their hands of it like they did with the drug war.

Under the state of things, it is not an exaggeration to say the government of the Philippines has effectively imposed martial law in fact, if not formally declared in law. At a time of crisis, the gut instinct of the State was to mobilize and deploy its apparatus of violence. The deployment of medical resources is secondary to the assault rifles deployed. Instead of the deployment of increased medical resources, we have uniformed forces aimlessly and needlessly straying city borders with no other purpose than installing themselves as the false faces of the state’s peace and order. It is peace and order and not public health that is the priority of the state.

This martial law is extralegal, not that legality has significance to anarchists in the archipelago. Activists of all stripes understand that the state apparatus of violence is not limited by what they prescribe in law. State violence has always been both legal and extralegal, never mind that legality is a pointless distinction when the balance of power favours the state. Legality is meaningless when what is violent can simply be legalized in an act of congress or municipal ordinance—indeed that is what happened with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The deployment of the apparatus of violence to literally combat a medical emergency betrays a certain opportunism from the state. The state is opportunistically using the crisis to expand its police power. While the purported purpose of the lock down is to quarantine, it is also a godsend to the fascists in the police and military as an excuse to crack down on dissent. And what of the new laws they put into place now? What guarantee do we have that the extreme measures the state takes today do not become the new normal after the end of COVID-19 crisis?

We have seen an unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state with drones and cameras being drafted to keep a close eye over public spaces. Instead of using their resources to feed people, they instead use this crisis as an opportunity to expand their ability to do surveillance!

In a special session, congress railroaded the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act with its controversial provisions on granting special powers to the Office of the President and dramatic jail time and fine penalization for dissenters.1 This is the use of shock doctrine, or the opportunistic use of crisis to pass controversial or questionable laws. First described by investigative reporter Naomi Klein, the shock doctrine is used specifically during crises like our own to take advantage of the difficulty to build resistance to these policies due to the crises. The state is using this crisis as an opportunity to expand its power. This is not a phenomena isolated in the Philippines; Hungary is now practically a dictatorship after Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the crisis to expand his powers to practically dictatorial levels and now rules by decree.

We anarchists are sceptical of authority itself. We do not think those in authority have our best interests at heart. We think they are there only to reproduce and expand their own power. After the crises passes, the state of emergency will be lifted, but the new powers and the new state of surveillance will stay.

Solusyon Medikal, Hindi Militar!
We anarchists in the archipelago do not contest the need for a quarantine. After all, a quarantine and social distancing is needed to protect the most vulnerable among us like the immunocompromised, people living with HIV, and our elderly.

With that said, a quarantine enforced by violence and guns is clearly the wrong way to implement a quarantine. It does more harm than good. The checkpoints are made up of squads of large men with guns with barely any medical equipment in sight, not to mention the repeatedly noted lack of trained medical professionals. Reports of the vagueness of protocol, sexual harassment, and sometimes outright robbery and extortion on the part of the police and military personnel are being posted by people who go through the ordeal of dealing with them. What is even more alarming is the possibility of the checkpoint officers becoming vectors for the diseases themselves with reports of checkpoints without face masks or police and soldiers in close contact with the people they check. Checkpoints also risk becoming a place where people are forced to congregate, creating possible vectors for viral transmission. Ultimately, soldiers and police are trained in violence, not empathy or care-giving. Thus when confronted with homelessness, these people respond with violence—arresting the homeless instead of giving them a home, as was the case with lola Dorothy Espejo.

The severe discrepancy between resources devoted to militarized policing versus medical needs is made even more apparent by this trend of “VIP testing.” Politicians, oligarchs, and elites are able to jump the line and gain priority access to COVID-19 testing all the while people are being turned away from critical treatment due to lack of testing.

On April 1, the elitism of the regime was apparent where people congregated at a national highway in Barangay Bagong Pagasa upon hearing a rumor that food packs would be distributed there. They were met with mass arrests, purportedly for breaking quarantine. Instead of meeting needs, the state opts to just arrest them all. Meanwhile Senator Koko Pimentel who wilfully broke quarantine protocol knowing that he was a patient under investigation is still a free man without any repercussion other than public outrage. Pimentel scandalously endangered critical medical personnel when it was revealed later he was positive for COVID-19. One also remembers that convicted plunderer and widow of the old dictator Imelda Marcos is still a free woman despite the courts deeming her criminal. It is clear that law and protocol only apply to toilers and dispossessed while the elites can live as they will, wilfully endangering working people around them.

We also see the discrepancy in the dismal provision of relief packs. Endless emergency funds are activated but relief provided is paltry. These dismal relief goods are contrasted with images of agricultural traders in the Cordilleras destroying and discarding vegetables simply because they cannot sell these! Vegetables are being thrown away while people are being arrested for protesting their hunger. In these times of crisis the need for an economy to fulfill needs instead of profits is increasingly urgent. One wonders why with all these emergency funds activated from the crisis, government agencies cannot simply purchase all these produce before they are discarded.

Against a militarized quarantine, the people of the archipelago demand in one voice: Solusyon Medikal, Hindi Militar!—Medical solutions, not military! Against the elitist privilege in accessing COVID-19 testing kits, activists cry out: free mass testing now! Against the paltry provision of goods, the people organize in mutual aid and bayanihan networks that seek to fulfill needs.

Quarantine and capitalism are incompatable.
During this time of crisis, it is increasingly apparent that quarantine and capitalism are incompatible. A quarantine requires people to stay at home, limit going out, and practice social distancing. But how can people stay at home if they are precarious workers under a no-work no-pay scheme and live pay check to pay check? How can people confine themselves to their homes if their needs are dependent on their pay checks? If workers are laid off, how will they afford groceries and rent while in quarantine?

A quarantine needs to fulfill the needs of the people as a irreducible minimum for the reproduction of daily life, that is to say, to be able to access food, water, medicine, and other things needed to stay alive. But production under capitalism does not revolve around meeting needs, it revolves around meeting profits. Thus when a state of emergency shuts down the engines of profit, so does the engine of wages shuts down, and with that the needs are left unfulfilled.

Against the contradictions between capitalism and quarantine we need a system that meets needs instead of profits. We need a quarantine that ensures people do not starve. Without work and against the demand of rents and profits, our demands must be to distribute according to need, to cancel rent, and to cancel residential utility bills. And after the crisis, to keep these cancelled.

For a non-militarized, self managed quarantine
In the face of a martial law dressed in medical gowns, what can we count on? Each other.

Regular people, people like you and me, are doing what they can to make sure that not only they survive, but to ensure the well-being of those around them, too. We see people practicing mutual aid, or as it is known in the Philippines, bayanihan. We see people making masks and medical gear, not for profit, but because there is a need for it. Mothers in Los Angeles are taking over abandoned houses in search of quarantine like Kadamay did in Bulacan. Neighborhoods all over the world are helping each other out by pooling together what little they have, and like the political dissident Jesus breaking bread and fish, are able to fill each others’ needs with the most shoestring of supplies. These are seeds for a future post-capitalist economy based on needs rather than profits.

It is clear we can expect no salvation from the state or capital. Against the quarantine with martial law characteristics, it is urgent that we forward a liberatory alternative based on solidarity and mutual aid instead of militarism and impunity. It is possible to have a self-managed quarantine that is not enforced with assault rifles. For example, residents among urban poor communities in Metro Manila have taken the initiative of setting up their own self-managed checkpoints, sans assault rifles and macho egos. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, quarantines are not enforced by force of arms but rather by the collective responsibility of everyone. A quarantine without coercion and violence is possible if we care to look.

Indeed, a better world is possible if we care to look. ■

by Simoun Magsalin with input from the Bandilang Itim Collective
Originally hosted by Libcom


Bandilang Item (Filipino for “Black Flag.”) aspires to end the atomization imposed upon us by capitalist society, an alienation that separates us from each other. Bandilang Itim aims to be the banner that rallies together libertarian socialists in the archipelago known as the Philippines.

Their website can be found here:
www.bandilangitim.noblogs.org

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Pasaway daw ang mahirap? Residents of Manila’s poorer districts defend against the coronavirus by putting up makeshift barricades to halt movement in its tight alleyways and jampacked slums where social distancing is nearly impossible.”

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  • 1. Against the co-option of bayanihan by the state to label its expansive powers, anarchists in the archipelago forward a genuine bayanihan in its original meaning of mutual aid.