Local poets protest Duterte regime’s anti-terror laws


In Manila, some are tying anti-terror law placards to their bikes when they leave the house for groceries. Others have decorated face shields with messages such as “fight tyranny”.

On July 18, when the anti-terror laws came into effect, 20 Filipino poets from Australia and other countries participated in a digital protest where they read work critical of the Duterte regime. The event has now become a weekly series to keep debate over the laws alive.

An Australian-based poet, who did not wish to be named out of fear of reprisals from the Duterte government, said poetry can help distil complex issues and help change people’s opinions.

“We’re using our art in this time to respond to what’s happening,” she said. “Especially because there is so much at stake. We’re doing this regular series so that this fight for our freedom of speech and freedom of dissent isn’t ignored.

“What we hope will come out of this is a broader awakening … in other countries in Asia and beyond. It’s not just in the Philippines where the government is silencing dissent. You can see examples all over Asia [like] the Hong Kong security law.”

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Another artist who has been participating in the digital protests (but is based in the Philippines) said it was wonderful to see the diaspora come together.

“One of the things fascist regimes don’t have is imagination and creativity,” she said. “So that’s something we want to explore. Being afraid is what the government would want.”

Earlier this month, President Duterte said Filippino citizens have nothing to fear from the anti-terrorism laws if they are “law-abiding”. He stressed the laws were designed to stop church bombings, kidnappings and other acts by extremist groups.

Creative responses to the Philippines’ anti-terror laws are broadcast on the Facebook pages of arts collectives such as DAKILA and The Digital Sala every Monday.