Dong Dantes on the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Bill

 I am a reservist. Isang karangalan at tungkulin ang tumulong sa pangangalaga ng kaayusan at kapayapaan ng bansa.

I am also a family man. Sa abot ng aking kakayahan ay sinisiguro kong ligtas, malusog at masaya ang aking pamilya.

But I am an artist too. Hindi lang ito trabaho para sa akin. Isang responsibilidad ang magbahagi ng mga kwentong repleksyon ng ating realidad — masaya man o malungkot.

I may wear multiple hats, but I am aware that these three hats are aligned with my core values. So inside me, they co-exist and are interdependent. And in pressing issues such as the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, I know that I have to use all three lenses of a reservist, family man and artist to see clearly.

Our nation is battling so much fear: fear for our health because of the COVID-19 pandemic; fear for our security because of the crisis and the ballooning unemployment rate; and fear from violent acts since the country is still negatively affected by terrorism.

Sadly, the Anti-Terrorism Bill is also causing fear—fear from abuse of power because of uncertainties and lack of dialogue. It is unfortunate that instead of uniting the people during these difficult times, the bill is dividing us. We must remember that the bill must yield the greatest net benefit to the people.

I completely agree that we must eradicate terrorism for our safety and wellbeing. Based on reports that I have read, the country ranks 9th in the Global Terrorism Index of 2019. And among the states in Asia Pacific, our nation is the most impacted by terrorism. We are even among the top 10 countries with significant increase in deaths from terrorism for 2016–2017.

But I also recognize the importance of proper consultation on concerns that affect our constitutional rights.

Artists were not consulted on this bill, and yet we are among those whose personal and professional lives are at stake. Contrary to the notion that we only exist to entertain, artists are actually vital storytellers of our nation’s past, present and future. We help bring people together; we help Filipinos stand as one nation as we have always done in the past and are continuing to do during the current pandemic.

And since the Filipino’s cooperation, support, trust, and confidence is critical in the fight against terrorism, we, artists assert our role and responsibility in helping craft the law so that we may better contribute in bringing the people together towards one goal which is freedom and peace.

We need an opportunity to present our case. There are several sections in the bill that may be entirely deleted without rendering the law ineffective. One is Section 9, Inciting to Commit Terrorism, which is defined by the bill as “any person who, without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution of any of the acts… by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.” Would deleting this section make the law useless? I believe not. But it would certainly protect the people’s freedom of speech and expression, especially that of the artists’ community.

Kung hindi na natin makukumbinsi ang Pangulo na i-veto ang Anti-Terror Bill, nananawagan kaming magkaroon ng representasyon at partisipasyon sa paggawa ng implementing rules and regulations ng Anti-Terror Law. Umaasa kaming mga aktor na maririnig at pakikinggan ang aming boses. I too hope that we can still find a way to create an ideal Anti-Terror Law that respects Filipino’s constitutional rights and limitations within an environment of public trust and confidence.

Today is the 122nd Independence Day of the Philippines. I pray for everyone’s courage in this unprecedented time. I pray for love and unity. I pray for our freedom from all forms of fear.

Maligayang araw ng kalayaan, magiting na lahi!