Religious leaders oppose anti-terrorism bill

Published June 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Leslie Ann G. Aquino

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has asked the government to address the unemployment problem, with more than 7 million Filipinos now out of work, instead of pushing for an anti-terrorism legislation.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace, said the government “should prioritize this problem over the anti-terrorism bill.”

As this developed, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) also appealed to President Duterte to veto the anti-terrorism bill passed by Congress.

In a pastoral statement, PCEC said while they recognize the necessity of legislative measures to protect the nation from terrorism, they firmly believe that the bill “imperils” the rights of Filipinos and sense of dignity.

“As this Act understandably involves the heaviest and most stringent penalties affecting individual persons and organizations, it should have undergone an extensive process of deliberation,” said PCEC National Director Bishop Noel Pantoja.

Gariguez said the government should not use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse in not solving the problem of lack of jobs.

“The government should have done effective measures to prevent this expected catastrophe and also to ensure the survival of our economy, including that of the labor sector,” added Gariguez.

On Friday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the unemployment rate rose to 17.7 percent or 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos in the labor force in April 2020.

Bishop Pantoja said: “Causing us great apprehensions, too, are the vague definitions of terrorism, and the extended period of warrantless detention, which opens the way to serious abuses of a person’s rights and dignity.”

“We therefore make this humble and urgent appeal to our President Duterte to veto the bill,” Pantoja said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace also expressed its opposition to the controversial bill saying it violates the rights of the people and makes a mockery of the Constitution.

“We at NASSA/Caritas Philippines condemn in the strongest terms, the blatant maneuvring of the legislative processes and the rule of law to suppress legitimate dissent, and to criminalize or to arbitrarily brand as terrorists those who are perceived to be opposing the administration,” NASSA chairman Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said in a statement.