Actor and Philippine Navy reservist Lieutenant Commander Dingdong Dantes expressed opposition to the current version of the anti-terror bill which was strongly supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In his post during the 122nd celebration of Independence day, June 12, Dantes said that the anti-terrorism act was ‘causing fear’ because of the possible abuses that could happen once it signed as a law.
“Sadly, the Anti-Terrorism Bill is also causing fear—fear from abuse of power because of uncertainties and lack of dialogue. It is unfortunate that instead of uniting the people during these difficult times, the bill is dividing us. We must remember that the bill must yield the greatest net benefit to the people,” Dantes said.
While Dantes supported the eradication of terrorism in the country, he also said that proper consultation was also important.
“Artists were not consulted on this bill, and yet we are among those whose personal and professional lives are at stake. Contrary to the notion that we only exist to entertain, artists are actually vital storytellers of our nation’s past, present and future. We help bring people together; we help Filipinos stand as one nation as we have always done in the past and are continuing to do during the current pandemic,” he said.
“And since the Filipino’s cooperation, support, trust, and confidence is critical in the fight against terrorism, we, artists assert our role and responsibility in helping craft the law so that we may better contribute in bringing the people together towards one goal which is freedom and peace,” he added.
The actor suggested removing the “Section 9, Inciting to Commit Terrorism” that punishes “any person who, without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution of any of the acts… by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations tending to the same end.”
“Would deleting this section make the law useless? I believe not. But it would certainly protect the people’s freedom of speech and expression, especially that of the artists’ community,” he said.
If ever that President Duterte decided to sign the anti-terror bill, Dantes was hoping that the government would ask artists like him to participate in creating the “implementing rules and regulations” of the controversial measure.
“Umaasa kaming mga aktor na maririnig at pakikinggan ang aming boses. I too hope that we can still find a way to create an ideal Anti-Terror Law that respects Filipino’s constitutional rights and limitations within an environment of public trust and confidence,” he said.
Lawmakers who authored the bill insisted that the anti-terror bill has enough safeguards to prevent any kind of abuses.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the Philippines’ anti-security law is one of the weakest in Southeast Asia.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured that they put enough safeguards to the bill.
Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa also insisted that activism would not be affected by the bill, saying that they could even post ‘Mabuhay ang NPA’ on the internet as long as they’re not supplying arms to the group.