Families of those who died in the government’s “war” against illegal drugs have expressed fear that the new anti-terrorism law will bring about more unresolved killings.
“We were already scared even without the new law,” said Llore Benedicto who lost two sons in the government’s “drug war.”
“Can you imagine what else can happen now that it has empowered the police?” she said, adding that Filipinos seemed to have “not learned enough.”
“Just getting a police report is already tormenting,” said Benedicto. She said it took her three trips to the station to get a police report on her slain sons.
When she filed a case, she was told by the Department of Justice that she failed to provide “substantial evidence” that her sons were innocent of the crimes imputed on them by the police.
“It was as if they’re saying your sons are criminals, you can’t find justice for them,” said Benedicto.
Rubylin Litao of the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights said filing a case is costly for poor families of victims of the government’s “war” on drugs.
“The victims are mostly from the poorest areas of the country. How do you expect them to shed US$100 when they can’t even feed themselves?” Litao explained.
She expressed fear that with the passage of the new law more cases will be junked and invalidated.
“They’ll trash the cases because it would be easier for them to tag anyone as terrorists and say ‘Your son is a rebel, a terrorist, and it’s okay that he was killed,’” said Litao.
Benedicto’s case was one of those cited in the United Nations Human Rights Council report on the Philippines’ human rights situation released on June 4.
On June 30, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on President Rodrigo Duterte to “refrain” from signing the controversial anti-terrorism bill.
She said the bill, once signed, could have a “chilling effect on human rights.”
The president signed it into law on July 3, effectively replacing the already existing measure against terrorism, the Human Security Act of 2007.
The day after, 11 activists, three of whom are reportedly minors, were arrested for staging a demonstration in the town of Cabuyao, Laguna province.
Under the new law, suspected terrorists can be arrested without judicial warrant and be imprisoned for 14 days. They can also be put under surveillance by the police or military for 60 to 90 days.
Benedicto said the fear will always be there, but “we will always stand up and fight for our rights.”