COTABATO CITY - Bangsamoro government chief minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim expressed alarm on the new anti-terrorism bill and called on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the measure.
Ebrahim, better known as Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, said in a statement submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that was read during a special session on Thursday, that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has struggled for more than 40 years for their homeland in the far south of the country.
Prior to signing a peace pact with the national government, the country’s largest Moro armed group has had countless battles against government forces that left more than 100,000 people dead. Ebrahim, better known as Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, is the chairman of the MILF.
“As the leader of a political entity born out of the struggle against injustice and oppression, it is my moral duty to speak out to ensure the measures intended to address terrorism will not be used as a means to subvert the fundamental rights and freedom of individuals, in general, and normalize abuse and discrimination against the Bangsamoro, in particular,” Ebrahim said.
He cited particular provisions on the anti-terrorism bill that raised alarm and concern for the residents of the Muslim region, noted that the overly-vague definition of terrorism and penalizing various acts related thereto in the bill not only violate the due process clause of the Constitution, but also make easy targets of innocent individuals, making them vulnerable to human rights violations.
He also cited the bill's provisions of surveillance of suspects, interception and recording of communication, and detention without warrant of arrest, which he said violates the right to privacy and rights of the accused.
Ebrahim also expressed doubts on the anti-terrorism council which will be formed to order arrests and designate persons, groups, organizations or associations as terrorists.
“Our experience as a people has consistently shown that when agents of the state are given too much discretion, it often leads to abuses which in the end undermines the credibility of the institutions of government,” Ebrahim said.
“These abuses are demonstrated in the arrests and detention of people of Islamic faith, profiling of Muslim students by the PNP (Philippine National Police), illegal raids, bombardment of Muslim communities and even guilt by mere association.
"It is an unfortunate reality for Muslims in the Philippines to be commonly tagged and profiled as terrorists," he said.
A resolution was also passed by the Bangsamoro Parliament appealing to Duterto to veto the House and Senate versions of the anti-terrorism measure to provide Congress the opportunity to review and address the issue of vagueness, overbreadth, and other concerns.
Bangsamoro Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong earlier delivered a privilege speech expressing alarm on the bill.
“We know the nasty feeling when the government avoids dealing with us then and so we can only sympathize with those who remain in the fringes and fighting for what they think is right. And don’t get me wrong, there is no reason for us not to hear them and even commiserate with them.” Balindong said.
“On the other hand, it is also our duty to give them a more objective perspective, especially now that we are one with the government in ensuring a good life for our people."
The anti-terrorism bill, which Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson described as the country's game-changer towards extremists, was approved on its third reading by the House in early June. The measure's approval ignited public outcry and protests, resulting in "unlawful" arrests by authorities.