THE UNIVERSITY on Sunday joined other Catholic universities in opposing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which was passed in Congress last week.

“We fear that people’s basic civil rights as enshrined in the Constitution will be rendered inconsequential when this becomes a law,” UST said in the statement posted on its social media accounts.

“What is quite alarming is that the law can open the door to arbitrary arrests without warrant, detention without charge up to 24 days before people are presented to courts, and that any abusive law enforcement agent will be exempted from any liability,” the statement read.

Last Friday, the heads of universities run by the Jesuit and De La Salle brothers appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the “ill-timed” bill, saying it could be used to oppress people. The priority should be addressing the pandemic and reviving the economy, they said in a joint statement.

UST likewise urged the government to focus on the “deleterious effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“The University appeals to the government to instead draw its efforts to fight the war against Covid-19,” UST said.

UST central and college-based student councils have also spoken out against on the bill.

“The councils believe that the state must prioritize implementing policies that directly address the health and well-being of the Filipino people instead,” they said in a statement released on Sunday.

The UST Journalism Society on Friday warned that the bill could be used to crack down on government critics.

“The bill’s definitions are dangerously broad and vague, allowing the state to tag virtually anyone a ‘terrorist’ or accuse anyone of ‘inciting to terrorism.’ These definitions can be weaponized to silence critics of this administration, which is notorious for using legal tools like quo warranto petitions and cyberlibel charges to harass news outlets who refuse to toe its line,” it said in a separate statement.

The anti-terrorism bill allows the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without warrants and expands surveillance to 90 days, from 60 days. It also scraps the P500,000 fine on law enforcers for wrongful prosecution.

The bill only needs President Duterte’s signature after 168 lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted in support of the measure. The House copied the version of the Senate, which was passed on third reading in February.


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