• Melo Acuna

US lawmaker calls on PRRD to retract Anti-Terror Law

American lawmaker, other peers call to retract Anti-Terror law

MANILA – U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (Democrat, Illinois), a ranking House leader called on the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte to rescind the newly-signed Anti-Terror Law (ATL), which will go into effect nationwide in the next few days.

“We stand with people in the Philippines, Filipino Americans, and grassroots organizations like Malaya Movement and the ICHRP-US in demanding a genuine democracy where dissent is accepted and encouraged instead of criminalized,” said Schakowsky in a virtual press conference Wednesday night in Manila.

In a statement sent from Washington, D.C., the American lawmaker said during the past four years, President Duterte “unleashed state perpetrated terror against poor Filipinos, farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, people of faith, trade unionists, and human rights defenders.”

“Only through an organized mass movement can we defeat Duterte’s dictatorship,” added Nicanora Montenegro, Malaya Movement spokesperson.

Rep. Schakowsky, with 49 other members of the U.C. Congress sent a letter to Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez to convey these concerns, raising numerous cases of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings that have occurred in the four years of the Duterte presidency.

“With a long track record of using drug laws and martial law in parts of the country to target innocent activities who did nothing other than speak out against government policies, we clearly are left with no option but to view this as just the latest and most egregious effort to silence those fighting for basic and fundamental human rights in the Philippines,” said the letter.

Among the signatories are Chair and Ranking Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D, NY). And Chris Smith (R, NJ), and Chair of the Congressional Asian pacific Caucus Judy Chu (D, CA).

“We see the targeted killing of labor rights and human rights activists, silencing of Rappler media outlets, ongoing attacks against any who dare to speak out against Duterte’s violence and trampling of rights. We are telling them these egregious attacks cannot stand,” said Rep. Judy Chu. She was the first lawmaker to speak out against the attempted assassination of U. S. citizen and activist Brandon Lee in front of his home in the Cordillera region in the Philippines last year.

Lawyer and former Congressman Neri Colmenares who took part in the virtual press conference, thanks the American lawmakers for expressing their concern for the worsening human rights in the Philippines and encouraged U. S. congress to support the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA), a bill that would put restrictions on US military aid to the Philippines due to human rights violations being linked to the Philippine state security forces.

“I’m sure not a single American taxpayer would like to spend American dollars to buy bullets or guns to kill the Filipino people. It is important for us to pass the Philippine Human Rights Act because it will put pressure on the Filipino government to tone down its human rights attacks. This bill will save lives in the Philippines,” said former Congressman Colmenares.

According to the statement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-US chapter expressed its thanks to 50 lawmakers for their action and encouraged the international community to continue to support the Filipino people’s fight against the Anti-Terror Law and defend their basic democratic rights. (Melo M. Acuña)

US Rep. Jan Schakowsky. (Screen grab from Virtual Press Conference Wednesday night in Manila)

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