BenCab is just one of more than a hundred artists making their voices heard against the Anti-Terror bill. Photo from BenCab's Facebook page
Culture Art

BenCab and 100 more of CCP’s 13 Artist awardees issue statement against Anti-Terror Law

“As concerned artists and citizens, it is our role to safeguard cultural values which embody our Constitutional rights,” the joint statement proclaims. By AUDREY CARPIO
ANCX | Jul 05 2020

More than 100 artists who are all awardees of CCP’s 13 Artists Awards between 1970 and 2018 have united in a public statement against the Anti-Terror Law. Artists who have signed include National Artist BenCab, Lani Maestro, Agnes Arellano, Jose Tence Ruiz, Soler Santos, Bernardo Pacquing, Nona Garcia, MM Yu, Martha Atienza, Nikki Luna, Cian Dayrit, and many other recipients of the prestigious award. 

The Anti-Terrorism Act was signed into law by President Duterte last July 3. Some of the law’s provisions have been criticized as grossly unconstitutional, and poses a chilling effect on free expression and the right to organize and assemble, as it criminalizes a vaguely defined “incitement to terrorism.” Citizens are now unprotected from unwarranted arrests and charges, while suspects can be detained without charge for up to 24 days.

“Parang gusto na lang ng gobyerno na manahimik na lang tayo sa mga nangyayari sa paligid natin,” says Renan Ortiz, 2012 awardee. “Bakit tayo magpapatakot sa kanila kung alam naman natin na tama tayo? Baka takot lang sila pag sama-sama tayong tumigil sa pananahimik.”

The 13 Artists Award is a triennial event that gives recognition to Filipino artists doing exemplary work in the visual arts. It was founded in 1970, with Ben Cabrera and Pandy Aviado receiving the maiden honors. 

Here is the statement from the 13 Artists awardees in full:

“Artists Unite Against the Anti-Terror Law

A Public Statement from CCP Thirteen Artists Awardees

July 4, 2020

“We, the undersigned recipients of the Thirteen Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines from 1970 to 2018, convey our collective disagreement and outrage over the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law on July 3, 2020.

“As concerned artists and citizens, it is our role to safeguard cultural values which embody our Constitutional rights to liberty, democracy, and freedom of expression.

“The Anti-Terror Law (ATL) is an attack against these rights and values. The law was signed amidst an urgent global need for humane responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Philippines registered its highest levels of transmissions since the lockdown. We consider this an insult to the efforts of fellow artists and citizens to unite and call out what we need from the government to effectively address the spread of the virus.

“We uphold the rights and freedoms enshrined in Article 3, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution of 1987. This new law is prone to the abuse of that article because of its broad definition of terrorism, its criminalization of perceived intent or even affinity, its giving of power to the Anti-Terrorism Council to identify, detain and put under surveillance ‘suspected’ terrorists without any warrant, and its exemption of arresting officers from charges and monetary claims in dismissed cases. All of these are unconstitutional.

“We deem essential the people’s rights to freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and association. These must be protected at all times and at all costs. We do not need a law designed to suppress democratic forms of redress and due process.

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“We deem essential the use of our taxes to address the people’s medical and economic needs in this time of the pandemic. The ATL opens up society to abuses bearing heavily on the poor and vulnerable sectors and worsening gender-based violence, all manifest now. We need to channel state funds, efforts, and resources to eliminate the virus, not public dissent. Unemployment, corruption, and lack of access to aid must be addressed first.

“We deem essential truth and transparency. The people must know where our taxes and other funds go in the administration’s responses to address the pandemic. We need facts and figures about the real state of the health situation in the country. We need to save lives, not faces.

“Dissent in the face of crisis is a right. Dissent is essential if democracy is to thrive and if the Filipino people are to survive.

“Junk the Anti-Terror Law.

Respect human rights.

Defend the freedom of expression.

Prioritize health and economic aid to the people.”

These are the 13 Artists Awardees since 1970.