The Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) grants the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) under Duterte extremely vast powers of the state; it aims to appropriate the constitutionally exclusive powers of the Judiciary to the Executive, effectively allowing the ATC to identify, arrest, and detain individuals even on the basis of suspicion alone of up to 24 days without charges. Equally alarming is the fact that aside from Duterte, key members of the ATC are also known human rights violators: Secretaries Delfin Lorenzana of the Department of National Defense, Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Hermogenes Esperon, the current National Security Adviser. We lay bare a fraction of the atrocities that these three have committed against the people as proof that they, along with their master Duterte, should not be granted tyrannical powers.
Lorenzana led the creation of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units during the 1980s, a section of the military wall known notorious for a wide variety of human rights violations, and pushed for the state sponsorship of vigilante group Alsa Masa which resulted to more rights violations and the breakdown of the rule of law. The secretary was also part of the administrators of Martial Law in Mindanao, Año and Esperon. Additionally, Lorenzana is an essential instrument of US imperialism; having been trained by the US and serving as an important bridge between US-Philippine military relations, he has been a strong supporter of US intervention in the Philippines. Aside from allowing US war games on our soil, Lorenzana was also identified by Duterte as the one who allowed direct US intervention during the Marawi crisis, which has left the city devastated and its inhabitants homeless and evacuees up until now.
Año, immediately prior to becoming secretary was chief of staff of the armed forces and has his own fair share of crimes against the people. He is accused of being a one of the minds behind of the illegal abduction of activist and peasant organizer Jonas Burgos inside the Ever Gotesco Mall, which up to now is still missing. Responsible for the notorious 2014 Paquibato massacre, he orchestrated the widespread militarization of peasant and Lumad communities.
Esperon is a retired Philippine Army General and prior to his current position, he was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2006-2008 and the Commanding General of the Philippine Army 2005-2006 under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; he orchestrated the Arroyo Administration’s attacks against the people. Notoriously, he was at the helm of the enforced disappearances of Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. By the end of the Arroyo Administration, there has been over 1,300 cases documented of political killings and enforced disappearances. With a rise of mass arrests and trumped up charges against critics of this administration only worsened by state-sponsored red-tagging, it is clear that the administration is using the issue of “national security” to further advance its agenda of silencing dissent and crushing activism. Esperon for the second time around fulfills his role of crushing dissent and legitimizing state terrorism. With the looming enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Esperon has gone on the record to claim that critics of the said law could be supporters of terrorists. To wit: “Doon sa definition ng terrorism, Section 4, sinasabi doon na hindi kasali ang mga dissent, advocacy, mass actions, at other similar exercise of civil and political rights. Nandoon mismo sa definition ng terrorism yan. So anong sinasabi nila na mawawalan ng human rights? Palagay ko yung mga nagsasabi niyan, yung mga supporter ng mga terorista.”
With these three in control and Duterte at the helm, we can only expect the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law to be ruthless and bloody. Given the record of these ex-military officers and Duterte’s own bloody reputation, the Anti-Terrorism law serves only the interests of those who want to consolidate power and wealth by effectively branding legitimate dissent and criticism as terrorism.
As the Anti-Terrorism Council bares itself as a Terrorist Council in reality, the people must actively organize and mobilize to oppose these fascist and authoritarian moves. Only through the collective effort of the different sectors of society will the people be victorious in winning the struggle for their demands and rights, and through united effort alone can we isolate and crush fascism, wherever it springs.