Labor, Catholic groups slam signing of anti-terror law
MANILA, Philippines — Various labor and church leaders slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the controversial anti-terror law which they fear would not only impinge on the public’s constitutionally guaranteed rights but also pave the way for the silencing of legitimate criticism.
The National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines, which is the Roman Catholic Church’s advocacy arm, condemned Duterte for his failure to listen to the public’s call not to sign the measure at a time when there are more pressing needs that have to be attended to due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The profound lack of consideration and sensitivity to the more pressing needs of the country by our government is appalling and utterly alarming,” it said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillio warned that with the Antiterrorism Act of 2020, the government now has the means to terrorize the very public it seeks to protect.
“I call this a terrorist bill because this is meant to terrorize people who would dissent against the bad policies of the government,” Pabillo said.
Given how authorities acted in the past, Balanga Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos said that there is no guarantee that the law would not be abused to threaten the exercise of freedom of speech.
“This [law] will not give us peace of mind but anxiety that it will be used, even abused, for us to be accused, arrested without due process or warrant. It just makes us afraid, fearful of what will happen to us,” Santos said.
“In this uncertain and troubling time of COVID-19, what we need is help and healing; what we have to show is charity and compassion. This anti-terror law will not give us peace, harmony nor will unite us. But it’s a tool to threaten, to take control of someone or something in disguise of anti-terror law,” he added.
Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that while they are one with the government in denouncing terrorism, violence should not be met with “heightened violence and legitimated terror.”
“Violence can never undo violence. The Church has long taught that only the praxis of true Christian love has the power to break the cycle of violence,” said Villegas, the former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
“We would rather as one, engage in the difficult but necessary task of building a culture that listens, that leaves none out, that accommodates differences… Peace is the only way to peace,” he added.
For the Nagkaisa labor coalition, Duterte “missed his historic opportunity to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution” when he signed the bill Friday.
“He very well knows that he has veto power but he failed his solemn duty to ensure that all laws should be enacted in accordance with the Constitution,” said Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula, who vowed to question the law in the Supreme Court.
At this time, the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said the administration should be focusing its efforts in addressing the outbreak and not advancing an agenda that seeks to crush any opposition to it.
It added that for the fight against terrorism to be won, its root causes like poverty and inequality should be addressed.
“Rather than stopping terrorism, telling state agents to endanger peace-loving people who speak their mind is irresponsible because it destroys the means allowing ordinary people to be heard. Rather than attacking working communities, organizations and unions, we call on the government to support these institutions that tirelessly work to improve the lives of Filipinos,” Sentro secretary-general Josua Mata said.
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