Study new anti-terrorism law carefully, Iloilo church leader urges
ILOILO CITY –– Church leaders and progressive groups have decried moves to enact a new anti-terrorism law amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is dangerous. There should be a public discussion and all sectors must be heard,” Msgr. Meliton Oso, executive director of the Jaro Archdiocese Social Action Center, told the INQUIRER.
He said the bill should be studied carefully and should not be rushed.
President Duterte has certified as urgent House Bill No. 6875, which seeks to amend the Human Rights Security Act of 2007.
Lawyers and human rights organizations have warned that the provisions of the law are unconstitutional and tramples on civil liberties.
These include granting powers to law enforcers to arrest and detain “suspected” persons for 24 days without charges.
It will also do away with measures that punished those guilty of falsely and wrongly accused of terrorism, which is present under existing laws.
“The Duterte administration is consistent in imposing more draconian measures while we are still reeling from the pandemic. It is using the pandemic to crack down on government critics,” Fr. Marco Sulayao, chair of the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Panay, said.
Sulayao said these measures are meant to stifle legitimate dissent and criticism on how the national government is dealing with the pandemic.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Panay said the passage of the law would lead to more killings and arrests of activists and those criticizing government policies.
Elmer Forro, Bayan-Panay secretary-general, cited the April 30 killing of Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, Bayan Muna Iloilo City coordinator.
Masked gunmen shot dead Porquia at a rented cottage in Arevalo District in Iloilo City even as the city was on lockdown.
Police have not arrested any suspect more than a month after Porquia’s killing.
“After more than two months, it is becoming clearer that Duterte’s priority is not the welfare of the people, but the interests of butchers and warmongers in his Cabinet to silence critics and dissenters,” Forro said in a statement.
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