The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) slammed the House of Representatives for its attempt to railroad the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 seeking to amend Human Security Act of 2007 as the Committee on Public Order and Safety and the Committee on National Defense and Security approved the proposed bill in its hearing today.

“It is enraging that amid the crisis we are facing due to the COVID-19, while millions of Filipinos are facing hunger and poverty due to unemployment and loss of livelihood, while millions of Filipinos are anxious due to the lacking and incompetent government response in handling the pandemic, our lawmakers’ are prioritizing the Anti-Terror Bill which will only be an instrument of the Duterte government and its fascist forces to legalize all forms of political persecution against activists, human rights defenders and critics,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

The group said that the proposed bill which criminalizes even legitimate exercises of free speech, freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association, will only escalate human rights abuses being committed by the Duterte government through the AFP and PNP against activists, human rights defenders and peasant communities.

“Even before the lockdown, farmers, peasant women and rural communities have been victims of military attacks. Military and police operations continued during the lockdown which resulted to more human rights abuses,” Soriano added.

The most recent victim is farmer Allan “Mano Boy” Aguilando, chairperson of the Northern Samar Small Farmers’ Association (NSSFA) who was killed on May 26 at Brgy. Rizal, Catarman, Northern Samar by the elements of the 803rd Brigade-Peacemaker under the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. Aguilando and the NSSFA have been active in campaigns demanding aid for farmers who were affected by calamities and crops infestation. The group has also been active in opposing Memorandum Circular No. 32 and other military atrocities against farmers and communities in the province.

Aguilando is the 251st farmer EJK victim under the Duterte government and the 4th farmer killed during the pandemic.

In Isabela, four farmers farmers residing in Brgy. Caquilingan in the town of Cordon were arrested by the Philippine National Police on charges of arson filed by the Roque-Villaluz, a landlord clan in the province.

Mario Guloy, Sr., 51 years old, was arrested in his home on March 10, 2020 and is currently detained at the BJMP Santiago City. Rodrigo Buajon, 56 years old, was arrested in his house last April 28, 2020 while Virgilio Nievera, Jr., 50 years old and Marlon Nievera, 37 years old were arrested on April 29, in Brgy. Capirpirwan in Cordon. They are currently detained at the PNP Cordon Police Station.

According to Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan-Cagayan Valley), the families of the 4 farmers were original occupants and settlers in Brgy. Caquilingan and have been cultivating their occupied farmlands for 7 decades. The Roque-Villaluz landed estate acquired anomalous titles to the land which they used against the occupants. The landlords resorted to the filing of numerous criminal cases including trespassing in 2001 and arson in 2002 against the peasant leaders and members of the Caquilingan Farmers Association.

“If passed, the Anti-Terror Law will only be used by the Duterte government to hunt and attack critics, including individuals and legitimate organizations pushing for social justice and meaningful reforms,” Soriano said.

“In this time of crisis, democratic space is crucial and necessary for the government to do its job effectively. It should provide venue for critics to improve its delivery of services. Otherwise, it will fuel further discontent and rage from its people,” Soriano added. ###

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