Bishop dares Panelo to sue religious leaders criticizing anti-terror law

Published July 20, 2020, 4:17 PM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, on Monday, maintained they didn’t violate the principle of separation of Church and State by issuing a statement against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo

“If it is really a violation, then file charges against us,” he said in a virtual press briefing. 
He added, “Don’t we have a right to speak on the failures of the government? Just because we are in church we cannot speak? We are also citizens.”

On Sunday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo accused the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines of using its religious influence to pressure the Supreme Court (SC) to decide against the controversial anti-terror law.

He said CBCP’s act could be a violation of the doctrine of the separation of Church and State as mandated by the Constitution.

On his part, Kalookan Bishop Pablo David said the Constitutional doctrine of separation of the two institutions is only violated when the Church is attempting to put up a State.

“We have no intention of putting up a government; that’s not our field of expertise.  We are just spiritual leaders and the only influence we have is religious influence, not political influence,” he said in a Facebook post.

“We do not have political influence over the country’s Judiciary, nor do we interfere in the operations of government.  Our only influence is on conscience, because it is our duty to form consciences, and we are accountable to God for this,” added David.

The acting president of the CBCP said that as fellow citizens of this country, they are merely participating in the exercise of the freedom of expression of the citizenry.  

David also stressed they respect the Supreme Court.

“What we hope and pray for is that both our Legislature and Judiciary remain truly independent, and continue to function as designed by our Constitution,” he said.

In a pastoral letter released Sunday, the CBCP expressed disbelief about the manner in which the contentious Anti-Terror Bill was fast-tracked and approved in both Houses of Congress while the whole country’s attention was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bishops said they continue to draw encouragement from the belief that in various government agencies we still have many people of good will whose hearts are in the right places, and who remain objective and independent minded.