Press Release
March 2, 2020

Dispatch from Crame No. 727:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Statement on the Passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill


Last week, my colleagues voted to approve on third reading the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Had I been there, I would have voted against it.

Here's why.

We have a government that is more intent in suppressing dissent than protecting our people.

I am against terrorism. It is an evil that all of us should oppose with all our might. But vile as it is, there is simply a line that we should not cross. The fight against terrorism should not lead us to grant the government the power to abuse our human rights and civil liberties. Our weapon against terrorists cannot be a weapon against our citizens.

We are now serving under an administration where extrajudicial killings has become the norm, when the only effort against corrupt public officials and law enforcers are limited to transferring them from one office to another, or having them avail of early retirement. We live in a time when prosecuting erring public officials are exceptions, rather than the rule; where policemen and senior prosecutors spend more time pursuing and prosecuting libel and imaginary sedition cases against the political opposition rather than address the injustice committed by corrupt soldiers and policemen.

The word of the day is "lawfare". It is defined as the misuse of legal systems and principles against a perceived enemy, such as by damaging or delegitimizing them, tying up their time, or winning a public relations victory. The term is a portmanteau of the words "law" and "warfare".

I, myself, am a victim of lawfare. Our tyrant-in-chief used the full weight of his office to force the prosecution of a case regardless of a clear absence of any credible proof of any crime involving me. And I am not the only victim of this injustice by lawfare.

If this administration can use our present laws to focus our resources on persecuting dissent, what incentive is there to give our government stronger legal weapons to surveil, attack, and detain people for prolonged periods of time based on barely anything more than mere suspicion?

If plain words from someone like 'Bikoy', who made a career out of lying, and from the heinous crime convicts turned witnesses against me, are enough for this government to sustain criminal cases, imagine the injustice they can cause under the pretense of the war against terrorism.

The failure of our country's war against terrorism will not be due to the laws that we have in place. It will be due to the lack of true leadership from our commander-in-chief. It will be because the administration would rather send a battalion of policemen to arrest opposition leaders charged with libel rather than gather good and solid intelligence against terrorists. It will be caused by corrupt immigration and customs officials who are kept in the service in spite of clear evidence of their malfeasance.

The war against terrorism requires unrelenting efforts not only to locate and neutralize terrorist elements but also to improve the lives of our countrymen who are living in poverty and as such are vulnerable to the influence of these malevolent forces.

If this government is indeed sincere in the fight against terrorism, it must show that it is beyond petty politics and that it is capable of transcending party lines and redirect its attention to good governance. Then it will have earned the privilege of using a stronger and ultimately harsher law against terrorism.

But at a time when the House of Representatives (HoR) can simply sit on the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, inspite of clear public support behind it and of the absence of any wrongdoings, we might not have the government worthy of our people's trust. If ABS-CBN, powerful as it is, is in the receiving end of government injustice, how much more will our people suffer with a law like the proposed anti-terrorism measure?

Sa halos apat na taon ng administrasyong ito, nakita natin kung paano baluktutin ang batas para lamang maniil ng mga Filipino. Bakit natin sila bibigyan ng sandata na gagamitin lamang nila laban sa oposisyon at hindi laban sa terorismo?

An assurance from the Senate leadership that the Anti-Terrorism Bill won't be used to suppress dissent and disable or destroy critics and political or ideological enemies is not enough. So-called safeguards in a law won't matter to draconian implementors thereof.

(Access the handwritten version of Dispatch from Crame No. 727, here:

News Latest News Feed