Criticising China could be ‘terrorism’ under Philippines’ anti-terror law, warn retired Supreme Court justices
- Retired Supreme Court justices Conchita Carpio-Morales and Antonio Carpio and scholar Jay Batongbacal file petition against Duterte’s Anti-Terrorism Act
- They say controversial law is so vague it could even be used to censure their criticisms of Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea
The law has caused an uproar and 16 petitions have been filed against it at the Supreme Court.
The latest was filed by nine petitioners, led by the retired Supreme Court justices Conchita Carpio-Morales and Antonio Carpio and the maritime law scholar Jay Batongbacal.
Carpio-Morales said she could be accused of “terrorist acts” listed in the law such as “extensive interference” intended to “destabilise” what the law calls “fundamental political structures”.
She said under the terror law she could be charged with “severely damaging the diplomatic infrastructure between the Philippines and China”.
She added that in 2017, when she was Ombudsman, she had criticised Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs”. Infuriated, Duterte had told her to “shut her mouth” and called her a “spokesman of the criminals”.
Carpio said that under the law his stance could be “misconstrued” as an intent “to provoke or influence” the government. He said this could “convey in the mind that, to preserve the West Philippine Sea for the country, the people must withdraw support from the Duterte administration”.
He noted how Duterte had accused him and Carpio-Morales of “escalating tensions” between Manila and Beijing. The president had said the pair would be responsible for any violence that might erupt in Palawan, the large island nearest the Chinese military installations in the South China Sea, Carpio said.
He also recalled how National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon had called him a “warmonger” for his stance on the maritime dispute.
Carpio also said in the petition that Duterte’s son Paolo, a congressman, had posted a Facebook graphic accusing Carpio of being part of a plot to overthrow his father. The congressman later deleted the post.
The third petitioner, professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said that because of his criticism of the administration’s handling of the maritime dispute, he too could be labelled a terrorist.
Because of remarks like this, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had accused him of being a “warmonger” too, he said.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr defended the Anti-Terrorism Act, saying it filled a gap in the country’s legislation. “When we fight insurgencies, we have laws for that. When we fight rebellions, we have laws for that. But [terrorism] is an insidious new method of attack against innocent civilians, not soldiers. This is what the Anti-Terrorism Act [is for].
“It’s a very specific act and it’s perfectly done.”