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Controversial Philippine anti-terrorism law takes effect today


Controversial Philippine anti-terrorism law takes effect today

Protesters in June opposed the passing of the Terror Bill
Photo: Reuters

A controversial anti-terrorism law is set to take effect in the Philippines today ahead of an impending Supreme Court battle to nullify the legislation.

The recently signed law, which stands to appoint a council that could order warrantless arrests for those deemed “terrorists” by authorities, has prompted harsh backlash against President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration at home and abroad. The law is suggested to be a mechanism via which the incumbent—already known for his condonation and encouragement of lethal force in the so-called war against drugs—can further silence his domestic critics, as his strongman popularity wanes in the face of the worst domestic recession in three decades.

Despite Duterte’s acquisition of special emergency powers, public dissatisfaction over a lack of transparency in COVID-19 management has been exacerbated by the administration’s prioritisation of legal manoeuvres over public health and a comprehensive economic stimulus package. The legislation currently faces an unprecedented level of public scrutiny that has coincided with renewed solidarity among diverse domestic groups, which include members of the judiciary, religious authorities, education industry and private sector. The backlash has prompted nearly 20 congressional lawmakers to reverse their affirmative votes on the issue.

Expect the general frustration stemming from sustained COVID-19 restrictions to prolong backlash against Duterte’s priorities in the short-term. The inevitable legal battle over the law’s longevity will have serious implications for the future of human rights in the Philippines. However, the nonpartisan composition of the opposition could pose a serious threat to both the legislation and the prospects for Duterte’s successor in the 2022 election cycle, although he remains in a solid position to guide his favoured candidate to victory.

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