Red-tagging an example of how anti-terror law causing harm to activists: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 01 2021 11:24 AM

Red-tagging an example of how anti-terror law causing harm to activists: expert 1
Protesters hold slogans during a rally against the fifth State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte at the University of the Philippines, Diliman in Quezon City, July 27, 2020. Basilio H. Sepe, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - A constitutional expert said Monday there was a chilling effect on freedom of speech when the new counterterrorism law, which grants state forces sweeping powers to address terrorism, was enacted.

"There's already an impact on the society the moment the act was enacted. Because the moment the act was enacted, there was already a chilling effect," law professor Antonio La Viña told ANC.

The military's red-tagging operations, he said, is an example of how the anti-terror law is causing harm to activists.

"Because they kept on saying that activists, who are doing all of these things, that criticizing the government are terrorists. That's a good example," said La Viña, also legal counsel for a group of petitioners of the anti-terrorism law.

"Then they cite specific provisions of the anti-terror act, saying when you criticize the government it violates this particular provision. Then that could be pointed out as in fact already causing harm."

Red baiting, as defined by Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in 2011, refers to "the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/ or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy...by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be 'threats' or 'enemies of the State.'"

La Viña said the law was vague "because there's no definition of many of the acts."

Vague definitions of certain crimes can have chilling effect on freedom of speech and right to associate, he said.

"That's why you need definition for all of these. You need to show that in fact it's related to the act of terrorism," he added.

The counter-terror law was signed in July 2020 despite heavy opposition over fears it could be used to crack down on dissent.

Among the law's contentious provisions includes warrantless arrest, prolonged detention without charges and the designation of any person or group as terrorists.

Thirty-seven petitions are pending before the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the law. Oral arguments are set to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

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