The Philippine Center of the International PEN condemns the enactment of the Anti-terrorism Act of 2020 and urges Filipinos to be vigilant in guarding their rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution which the new law seeks to erode and undermine.
The new law has a very vague definition of terrorism while also allowing itself a very encompassing reach that could be weaponized against the people it claims to protect.
It gives a shadowy Anti-Terrorism Council the authority to arrest without warrant people and groups which it designates as “terrorists” and detain them without charge for up to 24 days. It also has the power to access private information through wiretapping calls, intercepting emails and text-messages and intruding into private communication. A person could be incarcerated for 12 years for “inciting” to terrorism. Clearly the new law could be abused by despots intolerant of democratic dissent and free speech.
The Philippine PEN likewise condemns the General Guidelines of Joint Administrative Order No. 2020-001 of the Film Development Council (FDCP), Department of Labor, and Department of Health, which compels creative productions whether for film, TV, web, and other audiovisual content to be reported to the FDCP.
The FDCP head, actor Lisa Dino, has recently issued Advisory 6 in which she declares FDCP’s intention to exercise regulation over forms of media outside the scope of its mandate under Republic Act 9167, the law that created the FDCP.
The new order and advisory threaten to impinge on freedom of speech and creative rights enshrined in the Constitution. The creative industries are already struggling to survive from the dire economic impact of the Duterte government’s “enhanced community quarantine,” and the FDCP, which was created by law to foster ferment in the creative industries by technical and financial assistance, is not helping at all by assuming regulatory powers it does not legally have. If the FDCP cannot be part of the solution, it should not be part of the problem: it should, like all good actors, make a graceful exit.
The Philippine PEN views the Anti-Terror law and the FDCP order and advisory as instruments of state terrorism. Against such nefarious instruments, the Philippine PEN upholds the Charter of the PEN International, which “stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations.” We therefore “pledge (ourselves) to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression.” PEN also “declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in times of peace.” We urge freedom-loving Filipinos to be vigilant and oppose any attempt to return the nation to the dark days of despotism.