Philippines: Duterte signs controversial Anti-Terrorism Act into law

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed the widely criticised anti-terror bill endangering freedom of expression in the Philippines. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) are deeply concerned by the enactment of the law and the potential to silence the media.

Protesters wear face masks and carry anti-terror bill placards as they march in Manila on June 12, 2020. Credit: AC Dimatatac/AFP

Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 into law on July 3 following a submission from the Department of Justice and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to Duterte, including a review of stakeholders concerns. While the government purports, the law will not target freedom of expression and limits the definition of terrorism to exclude “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights”; if authorities claim to suspect a person is a terrorist, they can be held for 24 days without charge.

The Philippines anti-terrorism bill passed amid the controversial cyber libel conviction of Rappler chief-executive-officer and executive editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. The largest broadcasting network in the Philippines, ABS-CBN May remains in limbo after it was forced off-air in May as the House Committee on Legislative Franchises debates the future of ABS-CBN’s franchise.  

NUJP said: Regardless of the efforts to intimidate and silence us, we owe it to our people to continue delivering the timely and accurate information they will need to chart their individual and collective futures.”

The IFJ said: The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a direct attack against democracy and the ability of citizens and journalist to hold the government accountable. While the law in the Philippines is repeatedly used by the Duterte government to undermine press freedom, the continued advocacy and strength of those opposing the new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 provides a glimmer of hope for freedom of expression and unions in the Philippines.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram