Over 100 international lawyers and lawyers’ associations issued an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and members of the Congress of the Philippines. The urgent open letter was issued to express high levels of concern about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Philippines, which has been harshly criticized for its violations of human rights norms.
As the letter notes, “The international community is alarmed by the apparent abuses of power and civil unrest that the law will bring about. It will suppress and criminalize free speech and dissent, label and punish political enemies as terrorists, and unjustly deprive them of basic internationally recognized human rights and due process.”
The letter was initiated by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and signed by lawyers’ associations and international lawyers worldwide, including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the National Association of Democratic Lawyers of South Africa (NADEL), the American Association of Jurists, Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation, and the U.S. National Lawyers Guild (NLG).
“The IADL is closely monitoring the situation in the Philippines. This is not the time for further repression. This is a time for governments to invest in their people, not in repression,” said Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. “IADL stands in solidarity with progressive forces and human rights defenders throughout the world and will support and protect our Filipino colleagues.”
The open letter also followed a statement issued by the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP), which emphasized that “the very broad and vague definition of terrorism under the bill poses danger to the basic freedoms of the people.”
The procedure by which the bill passed the Congress of the Philippines is also highly questionable. Only approximately 20 members of the Congress of the Philippines were physically present to vote, while the rest voted remotely over Viber. Some members of Congress said that their votes were recorded incorrectly and other members withdrew their votes, saying they had insufficient time to examine the Senate version.
The letter appeals to President Duterte and Secretary Guevarra to reject the bill on multiple grounds of constitutional and international law. It concludes, “As legislators and officials of a democratic nation, we ask you to do justice for the Filipino people. The international community remembers the dark period of Philippine history under Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship and Martial Law. Just as we expressed support for the Filipino people’s rights then, we amplify the people’s call now to not repeat history. Say no to the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Say yes to honoring the Filipino people’s legacy of resisting tyrannical rule and defending democracy through any means.”
Download the letter: Download PDF