Laws becoming weaponized to threaten people’s right to life and liberty have stirred more people to protest in the Philippines. Philippine Human Rights Watch described the latest counter-terrorism law as eliminating “critical legal protections and permit government overreach against groups and individuals labeled terrorists.” Alongside such new policy, human rights defenders are either arrested or killed. Preeminent Philippines journalist Maria Ressa was found guilty in a high-profile cyber libel case simply because she is a staunch critic of the current President Duterte. One in a series of shocking acts, new rules in the guise of containing the pandemic have been used to shut down ABS-CBN, one of the country’s largest broadcast networks.
More and more online protests have become the rage, reaching more people from different parts of the world. To the surprise of many, music and arts still flavor the online platforms. The song Do You Hear the People Sing of Les Miserables was translated into the Filipino and has become a viral protest song. Spoken poetry, performance art, and popular songs are being presented.
I actively joined in two online prayer protests; one was about the counter-terrorism law, and the other one was held on the eve of the 2020 State of the Nation Address. We used tools from the Cultures of Peace training in both, such as stopping and speaking out to express feelings clearly: what happened, how it is wrong, and what we need. In the Call to Prayer and Action Against Terror Law, stopping was used during the protest proper, and also during in the organizers’ meeting.