The Filipino Fight for Human Rights

2020 has been quite an eventful year for the Philippines. The eruption of Taal, tsunamis, COVID-19, and many more have contributed to the hardships Filipinos have been dealing with thus far. However, nothing can compare to the decades of terrorism that has threatened the land. Due to the Philippines’ proximity to the Middle East, the country has been subject to highly frequent terrorist attacks. To combat this, the Anti-Terrorism Bill was signed into law by President Duterte on July 3rd, 2020. But what does its passing really mean for Filipino citizens? Why is the bill so controversial? Why are Filipinos protesting it? More importantly, how come there is a lack of media coverage relating to this issue? Opposed to the all-inclusive coverage of the Black Lives Matter Movement in America, Junk Terror Bill protests have barely managed to scrape the surface of mainstream media. In terms of social media, Junk Terror Bill posts have also drowned in the flurry of Black Lives Matter, and here’s why:

To understand the situation, people should first know the basics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill. The Anti-Terrorism Bill (House Bill 6875) is a piece of Filipino legislature that gives complete power to the Filipino government to decide what is or is not an act of terrorism. It was created by the Philippine government to amend an old law known as the Human Security Act of 2007 which became obsolete. People who wrongfully accuse others as terrorists would be fined amounts up to $10k in US currency, making people scared to use the act. The reprise of this act is essentially the same thing but with no retaliation on law enforcement. Although the new law was created in efforts to protect Filipino citizens, the lack of preciseness in its powers seems to be leading the country’s human rights down a dark path.

The Anti-Terrorism Bill, which has just been signed into law, gives absolute power to the government. There are no restrictions as to what the Philippine government can do when it comes to investigating terrorism. This permits state surveillance of everything from texts, emails, and call audio. There are also no fines or punishments for those who abuse the powers of this law, permitting those in power to identify anyone as a threat to the country and have them detained for up to 24 days and, on top of that, without charge or seeing a judge. People can even be killed, all without a warrant. Basic freedoms such as that of speech and protesting authority are in jeopardy due to this law. Things like social media posts about the government and climate strike protests both put those involved in danger since anything seen as opposition to the government is punishable. In addition to this loss of rights, the law also allows the Anti Terrorism Council (ATC), a group of people appointed by the government, to oversee all of this and choose who to arrest for any behavior that could be deemed as a threat. This is only another one of the human rights that the so-called “democratic government” of the Philippines has infringed upon.

There is no questioning the fact that this law will be life-changing to the common citizen of the Philippines. There is an undeniable infringement of human rights present. When this law comes into effect, no one in the country will be exempt from it. This includes journalists, human rights activists and even those who post on social media. With such an urgent matter at hand, it is hard to believe no one is talking about it. While Black Lives Matter protests are happening across the globe from the US to South Korea, barely anyone knows about the phrase “Junk Terror Bill,” which was made to combat the passing of the bill. This is mainly due to the fact that the country itself is relatively split on how they feel about the bill. While those of younger generations protest it, elders are more inclined to support it. There is also a huge divide in the citizens on whether they support the President or not. These kinds of controversies and uncertainties have made it hard for the protests to be noticed around the world. In addition to the division within the country, the government itself has contributed to the lack of media representation on the matter. Known to dictate the press, Duterte previously disbanded a whole news station, ABS-CBN, over comments he felt were against his presidency. It is no surprise that activism movements like the Junk Terror Bill ones were continuously shut down as well.

Furthermore, most members of the younger generation that do support the Filipino protests partake in what is known as “selective activism.” Selective activism is when an individual picks and chooses which social issues to care about, usually on a basis of importance to them, personal connection, or prevalence in the media (basically if it is trending). Although many members of Generation Z might care about what is happening in the Philippines, it is not their priority with Black Lives Matter taking up most of their time, and covering more of their feeds.

As this law becomes more definite in the Philippines, less protests will be allowed and even less attention will be drawn to the country until the issue is ultimately forgotten by the world. The sad truth about many social issues is that they don’t exist unless society is actively conscious of them. The bottom line is, If there is any way to change the fate of the Philippines, it’s through more awareness and taking action. Whether these kinds of events come to affect us directly or not, we should still be aware of what’s happening around the world. Being educated on these matters and taking action against them can inspire others to do the same and in all, bring the social change places like the Philippines is looking for.


Research Links


Petitions to Sign

  • Junk Terror Bill-Activism is Not Terrorism: Click here!

Junk the Anti-Terrorism Bill and Uphold Human Rights: Click here!

Alexis De Castro

Transcriber, Editor

Alexis is a 15-year-old, rising sophomore and Filipino-American living in North Carolina. Some topics she is passionate about include STEM, history, music, and culture! She is an active leader of her school as she is a part of the Student Government Association, Model UN Club, Robotics Team, and Quiz Bowl Club. She plays in her school’s Marching band (mellophone), Jazz band (trumpet) and Concert band (French horn) and is a huge fan of the performative arts! She is really passionate about serving her community and has founded her own local organization to help music students in her area with their studies by offering them tutoring and private lessons. Some of her hobbies include making music, sewing, collecting stationery and watching anime.

Published by Alexis De Castro

Alexis is a 15-year-old, high sophomore living in North Carolina. She is really passionate about political and social activism as well as volunteerism which she exemplifies through many organizations she is part of. Other than activism, she has great interest in history, cultural studies, STEM, coding and music! She hopes to become a musician, activist or cultural anthropologist when she is grows up.

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