Pasensya na po, Inang Bayan: End-ependence Day

by Reinier Navarro

Amid the rising number of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines and the countless confusing decisions made by the Duterte administration, Filipinos plan to continue slamming the national government’s incompetency through a Grand Mañanita on the 122nd Celebration of Philippine Independence.

Filipinos are expected to take their clamor on the road after a series of protests online against relevant social ills, despite the threat of COVID-19; as a part of the Grand Mañanita across the Philippines, netizens who cannot physically join the protest are encouraged to also protest online using the hashtags #JunkTerrorBill and #FightTyranny on their social media accounts.

Taksil. The sad reality is that some Filipinos would go to the extent of being against the good of the nation. © Robert Sy

Ironically, Mañanita became the inspiration for celebrating this year’s Independence Day after a Grand Birthday Celebration of a high-ranking police official last May 8.

Sadly, their actions for the birthday party were defended even if it breached several community quarantine protocols; the birthday celebrant did not consider it “wrong,” as he mentioned in a Philippine National Police (PNP) press briefing.

Netizens called out the said “special treatment” of those in favor for the administration after the arrest of seven youth activists in Cebu and six jeepney drivers of Piston, who are said to have violated protocols of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the same violations made during the controversial birthday party.

These were followed by a surge of numerous fake Facebook accounts in the Philippines, which raised the eyebrows of Juan and Juana.

Mostly individuals who signed petitions for #JunkTerrorBill and made remarks against the Duterte administration online were largely targeted by these posers; others reported that posers would even send death threats through private messaging.

Some netizens claimed that there was a job opening for cloning Facebook accounts with a pay of PHP 3,000.

Recently, Facebook released a statement stating that there is no evidence yet to prove that the cloning of accounts were “orchestrated.”

Why are we mad?

All problems were concurrent with the recent passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1083 and House Bill (HB) 6875 also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which netizens dubbed as “unconstitutional.” 

With President Rodrigo Duterte considering the passage of HB 6875 as “urgent” last June 1, numerous position papers and remarks online appeared opposing the said Anti-Terror Bill.

The passage of such a controversial bill would allow the military and the government absolute power to counter terrorism; however, others pointed out that there are many things vague about the Anti-Terror Bill which could possibly consider any individual as a terrorist.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the lawmakers who opposed SB 1083, said in an ANC interview that, “[…] Parang nabaliktad ‘yong prinsipyo natin of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Naging probably ‘guilty until proven innocent.’” 

[Translated: It is like our principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is reverted. It became “guilty until proven innocent.]

The opposition senator believes that the government should exercise its power to protect the nation from the threat of terrorism; however, this Anti-Terror Bill can be abused on the hands of politicians who aim to target certain opposition groups.

Senator Panfilo Lacson Sr., one of the principal authors of SB 1083, cleared out in several interviews that there is so much disinformation circulating about the Anti-Terror Bill explaining that this is meant to only safeguard and further protect the nation from the threat of terrorism.

The senator adds that this bill was filed since the 17th Congress, which was discussed and debated on by certain sectors of government; Lacson adds that certain groups for human rights were invited to discuss the Anti-Terror Bill but did not show up.

In an interview with Senate media last June 4, Lacson explained that, “Ang mabilis na approval, ang dapat tanungin d’on ‘yong House of Representatives. Kasi kami [the 18th Congress], sinimulan ko ‘yong public hearings dito hanggang sa ma-approve on Third and Final Reading nu’ng isang taon pa. […] Hindi ito [minadali] at [ito ay pinag-aralan nang mabuti]. 

[Translated: On the fast approval, the House of Representatives should be asked. I started public hearings for the bill until it is approved for Third and Final Reading last year. The bill is not rushed and it is studied well.]

Among the included new and revised provisions for the Anti-Terror Bill were surveillance operations on certain individuals and the new classifications for terrorists which are said to breach some provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

At least 10 lawmakers from the Lower House recently withdrawn their vote in favor for the recently passed Anti-Terror Bill after the clamor of alleged reports stating that members of the House of Representatives did not read HB 6875 and that there is no transparency of who voted in favor of the Anti-Terror Bill with reservation.

Groups for and against the Anti-Terror Bill continue to clash as more manifestations appear to convince the Filipino people to side with them.

In solidarity with the safety of the Filipino nation, a joint statement was made by the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines and the Philippines Jesuits who condemned the ill-timed passage of the controversial bill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until today, more and more people still debate on what should be done. Sadly, we are in turmoil facing two great challenges—the threat of COVID-19 and the Filipinos who are either elitists or negligent individuals who lack so much common sense.

What can we do?

Since President Duterte received the enrolled copy of the controversial Anti-Terror Bill a few days ago, there are three scenarios that can happen based on the legislative process.

Firstly, the bill can be signed by the President and it will be enacted as a Republic Act; certain provisions can be vetoed before it can be signed; this is why sometimes it takes long for the President to review bills for approval.

Another scenario is that the bill will entirely be vetoed by the President but a ⅔ majority vote from the Congress can counter this so that it passes.

A bill can also become a law if the President does not sign it, upon receiving the enrolled copy of the bill after 30 days.

Since you are stuck in quarantine, there are still possible ways to secure our freedom and rights so that the Anti-Terror Bill does not become a law.

The first thing you can do is contact the members of Congress representing your district; you can implore them through e-mail and explain why the Anti-Terror Bill is not good as it seems.

Back it up with verified sources and be straightforward; these politicians are busy also so you need to capture their attention fast.

Remember, it is never too late to ask for help.

The next thing you can do is continue to educate yourself by understanding what the Anti-Terror Bill is by going through explainers, joining webinars discussing it, and reading the bill itself so that you have a clear idea of what it is.

For those who will join the Grand Mañanita, please do practice caution.

Protesting may not be the best thing to do especially with a virus on the loose; I hope you can reconsider other ways to deliver the message you want to send.

Do not just make a stand, be aware of your rights and arm yourself with the relevant information you need especially in this age of rampant disinformation.

Our freedom and our rights are on the line if this bill passes.

All our ancestors who fought for our independence with blood, sweat, and tears, will be severely frustrated if we did not do our part in preserving the freedom they fought for.

We do not want to reach that part of the story where we regret not taking action.

Whether or not the Anti-Terror bill is signed, this is clear evidence that the priorities of our national government are not aligned with what the people want to happen.

Let us not put an end to our independence.

DISCLAIMER: Any view or opinion expressed in this article is of the author/s, and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of La Salle Green Hills.

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