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Church Leaders Unite To Take Stand Against Anti-Terrorism Law

House Bill 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill now only needs the president's signature for it to be enacted into law.

Philippine Christian leaders are expressing their opposition to House Bill 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

In a joint statement released on June 3, the group One Faith, One Nation, One Voice said that the bill will strip away respect for human rights as it is prone to be “misused and abused” by those in power. They said that the passing of the bill will hinder rightful opposition and legitimate dissent, will cause “further shrinking of democratic spaces,” and weaken public discourse. (Read: What Will Happen If The Anti-Terrorism Bill Gets Signed Into Law?)

“With the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill looming, we are like Queen Esther who is compelled to step forward and expose the sinister plot to destroy her people,” the group said. 

christian-leaders-rejects-terror-bill
Photo from Bulatlat.com

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the administrator of Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, and Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos are among the signatories. Joining them are Bishop Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Bishop Emergencio Padillo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Bishop Joel Porlares of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, La Salle Bro. Armin Luistro, and Benedictine Sr. Mary John Mananzazn. Several faith leaders and religious men and women also signed the statement.

Broad Definition of Terrorism

Christian leaders oppose the “overly broad” usage of the term terrorism, further stating that when passed into law, the bill could possibly stifle dissent and may curtail civil liberties. It would also weaken the checks-and-balances that are crucial in maintaining democracy in the country. (Read: CBCP decries ABS-CBN shutdown, says Filipinos need reliable news sources)

They also opposed the surveillance and wire-tapping of any suspected individual–without any evidence, saying it infringes on the privacy of citizens. The statement also expressed dissent on the warrantless arrests and detention of suspected terrorists without bail, even if under false pretenses, and without safeguarding against abuse of police officers and soldiers. (Read: The controversial deaths of three Filipino heroes)

A Repeat of Martial Law

christian-leaders-rejects-terror-bill
Catholic nuns from the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception help form the first line of defense against Marcos troops on EDSA Boulevard, two miles from the headquarters of anti-Marcos leaders. Religious leaders were a key part of the “People Power” revolt that brought down Marcos on February 24, 1986. (Photos from © Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley / Kim Komenich / Atlas Obscura)

“A thriving democracy upholds freedom of speech, the rights to assembly and association, the right to expression of beliefs, and other inalienable rights of our people,” Church leaders said. The group said that the bill and its provisions “reeks with the dark days of martial law” during the time of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. (Read: Pope John Paul II’s 1981 message to Filipinos remains relevant today)

House Bill 6875 seeks to amend the Human Security Act of 2007. 173 members of the House of Representatives voted yes to pass the House bill and is now only needing President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

Duterte previously certified the measure as urgent, even as the country still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

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