Artists Respond: the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

A new anti-terrorism bill in the Philippines, which has been described as “draconian” and “unconstitutional” by civic groups, human rights activists, and opposition lawmakers, is set to pass into law.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 contains provisions that empower Cabinet officials to order the arrest of suspected terrorists without a judicial court warrant, allow for the detention of a suspect for up to 24 days, and make “inciting to terrorism” a crime. Despite public opposition, the bill was passed after a third and final reading by the House of Representatives, and now awaits President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

New Naratif asked four artists to share their thoughts on the bill.

Tuesday by Tintin Pantoja

‘Tragedy is universal, but experienced on an intimate, individual level. In 2020, many countries are experiencing traumatic upheaval: the USA with the Black Lives Matter Movement, the youth of Hong Kong fending off Chinese authoritarianism, mass starvation in Yemen, and so on. It struck me, while watching the BLM protests featured in Western news outlets and social media, that so much of our attention is focused on certain tragedies while others are largely ignored. What is tragic and life-changing to some, such as the imposition of this Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act, is completely banal to those uninvolved. In the words of M. Bison, the villain in the 1994 Street Fighter movie, “The day [I] graced your village was the most important day of your life. For me, it was Tuesday.”

Linta by Kring Demetrio

“I remember seeing a magazine cover in the late 80s that showed a vampire labelled ‘Marcos regime’ feeding on a dying La Filipinas. I’ve redrawn it for this time and age. Four vampires, representing the pandemic, the war in Mindanao and on drugs, corruption, and foreign interests, are bleeding her dry. A fifth—HB 6875, the anti-terrorism bill—is led by a government official to join the feast.

In the midst of suffering and death, our leaders decided to prioritize this vaguely-written bill over mass testing and other solutions to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. HB 6875 will just be another vampire in this grisly scene, and he will not only take life but also the freedom of the Filipino people to express dissent and fight against injustices. I hope we, the Filipino people, will stay vigilant in quashing this effort to silence us.”

Editor’s note: ‘linta’ refers to a leech or bloodsucker in Tagalog.

Vigilant by Tristan

“The new anti-terrorism bill is a very dangerous tool that favours those in positions of power. We are shown that time and time again, the government and police have expressed countless examples of exploitation and corruption against its citizens. We should be vigilant for any opportunity that may endanger our rights and freedom.”

Mga Tunay na Terorista by Karla Circe

“The true face behind a poorly-managed pandemic, a public transport crisis, multiple displays of selective justice, human rights violations, and thousands of extrajudicial killings is the Philippine government – and yet they have the audacity to brand dissenters as terrorists.”

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