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Int’l forum vs ‘lawfare’ tackles democratic dissent

Lawfare — a portmanteau of “law” and “warfare” — has been coined to represent the pervasive weaponization of law to suppress democratic dissenters. 

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Louise Natalio/TomasinoWeb

“No to weaponization of law.” This was the call of the 1st International Forum on Lawfare as it tackled various issues and concerns on the use of legal means to oppress dissenters, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. 

Held at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium in De La Salle University, the forum highlighted different speakers and reactors on the weaponization of law in media freedom, labor, women, and LGBTQ+ key issues, among others. 

Lawfare — a portmanteau of “law” and “warfare” — has been coined to represent the pervasive weaponization of law to suppress democratic dissenters. 

Moreover, detained Senator Leila de Lima gave her keynote address through her brother Vicente de Lima II, coinciding with her third year in detention. 

Among the speakers of the plenary were ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and oppositionist Senator Kiko Pangilinan. 

After her speech, Sereno urged the Filipino people in uniting against the enemy: “Kaya ang sinasabi ko: lahat po tayo ay magbuklod-buklod na at lumaban para sa tama. Hindi na po natin dapat hayaan na […] nagkakahati-hati tayo.”

She further stated: “Kaya dapat natin puntahan ang mga pundamental na pagkakaisa natin bilang bayan.” 

“Kailangan manindigan ngayon ang bawat Pilipino. Tama na itong walang katuturan na panggigipit sa kapwa,“ Sereno further expressed. 

Furthermore, Cambodian opposition leader Mu Sochua, who is currently in exile, shared her story of struggle against lawfare in her home country. 

Media freedom

One of the breakout sessions was a panel discussion regarding the current trend and situation of press and media freedom in the Philippines. 

Representatives from multisectoral organizations and media outlets led the panels, like the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Makabayan Bloc from the Congress. 

In an ambush interview with TomasinoWeb, DLSU College of Law Dean Chel Diokno reiterated the importance of mobilization in defending rights, after highlighting the historical perspective of the law as an instrument of oppression. 

“Unang una dapat mag-organize tayo at mag-mobiliza at makiisa tayo sa mga naging biktima ng mga naging paglabag ng mga karapatang pantao,” Diokno said. 

He added that in addressing the repression of the state to the media workers: “Ipaabot dapat natin sa Kongreso at sabihing ‘walang ganyanan.’” he said. 

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CHR, Church opposes Duterte’s call to revive death penalty

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

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Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

“We believe in the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing drug sale and use, as well as other crimes anchored on restorative justice,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement. 

While the commission agrees to punish crimes, de Guia stressed that it should not result in further violations of human rights. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Commission on Prison Pastoral Care chairman and Legazpi bishop Joel Baylon and Balanga bishop Ruperto Santos cited that studies proved that capital punishment does not deter crimes. 

“The country will also lose the honor of one of the nations which condemned death penalty if capital punishment is revived,” Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes said. 

According to CHR, Duterte’s vow to uphold human rights above all does not coincide with restoring death penalty through lethal injection. 

The Commission also cited that it would breach the international agreement to abolish capital punishment, which the country ratified in 2007. 

“[A]ny moves to reinstate capital punishment in the country conflicts with the tenets of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” de Guia said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, July 27, said the revival of death penalty for drug-related offenses now has a better chance of being passed in the 18th Congress. Raheema Velasco

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‘Have we really achieved acceptance?’—gender lawyer

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination.

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Screengrab from #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality webinar

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination. 

“[J]ust last year, Metro Manila Pride recorded 70,000 attendees. For the most part we thought that it’s a sign of society’s increased support for the community…[b]ut have we really achieved acceptance?” Atty. Claire de Leon said yesterday, June 27. 

The Gretchen Diez incident last year, according to Atty. De Leon, “drastically” shifted the perception of the public toward the LGBTQI+ community and the ongoing fight for the SOGIE Equality bill. 

Misconceptions surfaced after the incident that was followed by a “massive” misinformation campaign against the bill. 

“[N]akakalungkot na marami ding nagbabangga ng mga karapatan natin sa karapatan ng ibang sector. Nakakalungkot na ang ibang tao iniisip nila na this bill would take away rights from heterosexuals or cisgender persons,” Atty. De Leon said. 

However, she stressed that protecting the rights of a marginalized sector does not take away the rights of another.

“[I]f you think that allowing a sector to exercise their rights would take away the rights of others, [then] we must rethink how we see rights [and] how we understand rights,” she said. 

Anti-discrimination ordinances in LGUs

The lack of SOGIE-based national laws pushed LGBTQI+ groups to fight for anti-discrimination ordinances (ADO) within the local government units. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced last year, June 29, the passage of the city’s ADO during the Metro Manila Pride March. 

Quezon City on the other hand passed on November 28, 2014 the Gender Fair Ordinance, which was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and was signed by the then-mayor Herbert Bautista.

Despite having implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and ordinances, Atty. De Leon said that the process is not entirely implemented and effective. 

“May council [at] may members of the council pero walang office…[N]a-highlight lang nito na hindi natatapos ang lobbying, hindi natatapos ang laban natin sa pagpasa ng ordinance,” De Leon said. 

“Kailangan nating ma-push na meron IRRs at also kailangan nating ma-make sure na nai-implement talaga ang mga ordinances na ‘to,” she added. 

De Leon said that laws and initiatives against anti-discrimination, whether from the national government, LGUs, or private sectors, are necessary to build a more inclusive community.

“Discrimination still occurs and as long as discrimination under the basis of SOGIE persists, we need a law that would give us protection…[p]rotection must be available and accessible to each of us regardless of our SOGIE,” she said. 

SOGIE and Anti-terror bills

READ  Mental health forum sheds light on Mental Health Law

According to Atty. Eljay Bernardo, the “vagueness” of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can directly affect the LGBTQI+ community as a marginalized sector fighting for SOGIE bill. 

“If we request government, demand government of our rights, it could be construed as terrorism, as destabilization,” Atty. Bernardo said.

The imprisonment of the Pride20, according to him, uncovered how the law can be “twisted” against freedom of speech and assembly. 

Last Friday, June 26, 10 members of LGBTQI+ rights group Bahaghari along with eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. 

They were being charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Disease and Batas Pambansa 880, or the Public Assembly Act.

Atty. Bernardo said that the bill could put burden in LGBTQI+ groups, which could be an excuse to put the members of these groups under the surveillance of an anti-terrorism council. 

According to Atty. De Leon, the Anti-Terror bill could “silence all of us,” especially the marginalized sector. 

“[F]or us when activism is the only way of asserting our narratives, this can further render us voiceless. It seems like wala naman siyang direct effect, pero the dangers of it ay nararamdaman na natin ngayon,” she said. 

The webinar #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality was hosted by Pat Bringas and was organized by Metro Manila Pride.

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Human rights lawyers pan anti-terror bill’s ‘vague’ definition

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.” 

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Screengrab from the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar

Human rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares put emphasis on the vague definitions included in the Anti-Terror Bill in an online forum held Saturday, June 6.

These broad definitions, according to Colmenares, could be dangerous, especially that Section 26 requires the formation of an Anti-Terror Council (ATC). 

“[I]t’s an executive body eh at ang mga members niyan ay mga executive officials, mga bataan ni President Duterte. Puwede kang i-designate na terorista,” he said during the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar.

The Section 29 of the bill, as explained by Colmenares, will allow the ATC to “issue a written authorization that allows the police to arrest an alleged suspect” and detain him up to 24 days. 

“Ang term nila sa batas written authorization, but essentially it’s a warrant. It grants the police the power and the authority to arrest you eh…[H]indi naman judiciary ‘yun,” Colmenares said. 

Lawyer Tony La Viña believes these provisions to be “unconstitutional” and could go after legitimate movements and actions and be colored or linked to terrorism.

“‘Yung terrorist, ‘yun ‘yung nagbobomba, nagpapatay ng walang kahulugan. The violence is simply intended for chaos, simply for destruction of the society. The old definition [in Human Security Act] did not respect that distinction. Mas lalo na ngayon [sa Anti-Terror Bill], 

“Nagdagdag ng mga crimes tulad ng inciting to terrorism, support of terrorism, proposal to commit terrorism—lahat ‘yan are all acts that we can actually do on a day to day basis sa pakikibaka…[P]uwedeng kulayin at kulayan ng gobyerno at sabihing ‘terrorism ‘yan’ or ‘inciting to terrorism ‘yan,” La Viña said.

The judicial authority in the Anti-Terror Bill, according to La Viña, is “much less rigorous”  in safeguarding on abuses, rights to privacy in communication, personal security, and unreasonable searches and seizures. 

The bill will also remove the jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights to prosecute human rights-related crimes. 

READ  Mental health forum sheds light on Mental Health Law

Colmenares sees the recent protests against the passage of the bill as “reasonable” despite being in the middle of a pandemic, as it shows the disapproval of many Filipinos to the bill. 

“[T]andaan natin na sa kasaysayan natin, ang pinakamalaking tagumpay ng sambayanang Pilipino ay nakamit natin sa gitna ng pinakamasidhing krisis. Kaya tama lang ang ginagawa nating paglaban. Resonable ito [upang] maipanaig ang pagtutol ng sambayanang Pilipino na maisabatas itong new Terror Law,” Colmenares said.

Marcos’ ‘new society’ now the ‘new normal’

Martial law survivors warned the public of the parallelism between the provisions of the Anti-Terror Bill and the abuses during the martial law period in the Philippines. 

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.”

“[Sa] new normal makikita natin [ang] mas matinding kawalan ng trabaho, mas matinding kakulangan sa kalusugan, mas hirap sa edukasyon, at milyong mga OFWs ang babalik. So paano ‘yan haharapin?,

“[N]andyan na [ang] undeclared martial law…[N]gayon kahit walang kaso hinuhuli, ikinukulong,” Taguiwalo said. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Chairperson Dr. Karol Araullo said that the bill intends “to silence criticism, critical thinking, and opposition.”

“Ayokong tawaging Anti-Terror Bill eh kasi sa totoo lang, it is a bill intended to terrorize the people into submission sa mga patakaran na hindi makabubuti sa kanila,” Araullo said.

To avoid the repetition of the 1972 martial law, Araullo said the limitations in the imposition of martial law was included in the 1987 Constitution.

“[T]hey want to carry out ‘yung ganyang klaseng panunupil on a wider scale which they are unable to do under the current laws…[S]o inimbento nilang itong Anti-Terror Bill,” she said. John Aaron Pangilinan

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