CBCP pressuring SC to decide vs anti-terror law — Panelo
MANILA, Philippines — Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Sunday accused the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines of pressuring the Supreme Court (SC) to decide against the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 after it issued a pastoral letter sounding the alarm on the anti-terror law.
Panelo noted that the CBCP, in its pastoral letter and call to prayer dated July 16, supports petitions filed before the SC. He cited the CBCP’s question mentioned in its letter: “Will the highest level of our Judiciary assert its independence, or will they, too, succumb to political pressure?”
“Such advocacy, coupled with its call to its faithful followers to prayer, effectively exerts religious influence or pressure on Supreme Court to decide against a national law designed to combat the global crime of terrorism and to secure the safety of the Filipino people,” Panelo said in a statement.
He said that the CBCP letter “appears to have violated” the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and the State.
“Even if it is not deemed to be a violation thereof, we note that it parrots the detractors favored false narrative that it is violative of the Constitution; that it allows warrantless arrest and wiretapping of suspected terrorists; that it sends a chilling effect on those exercising their freedom of speech; that there is a pattern of intimidation being undertaken by the government citing the case against Senator De Lima and the ‘shutdown’ of ABS-CBN, and that the people oppose it,” he added.
Panelo said all 10 petitions against the anti-terror law that were filed before the High Court should be dismissed for “utter lack of merit on procedural and substantive grounds.”
He noted it appears that all petitioners have adopted the “chilling effect” as a favorite phrase in describing the law’s provisions.
Nevertheless, Panelo said the newly-enacted law cannot be any clearer and reiterate that it “abounds” with safeguards for the basic liberties of those arrested and detained, as well as with deterrents against possible abuses by law enforcement officers.
“The definition of the crime of terrorism is as clear as the sunlight, the same being precise that leaves no room for misinterpretation,” said the Palace official.
“The law has been passed weeks ago and there have been no signs of any ‘chilling effect’ on those who wish to publicly air their grievances against the government. In fact, the voices of dissent are in wild reckless abandon,” he also said.
Panelo claimed that various groups and the “silent majority of the citizenry” who witnessed the destruction of lives and properties due to terrorism have welcomed the passage of the law.
He said the CBCP only has to trust the Philippine judicial system as adopting an opposite mindset only undermines the country’s legal institutions.
“The CBCP likens us to ‘the proverbial frog swimming in a pot of slowly boiling water.’ For its education, we have been in a far worse situation for years due to the favorable treatment which people in power or of influence have been receiving from past governments,” added Panelo.
“The present dispensation has taken us out of this environment through the President’s political will in enforcing the law equally to all, bar none, including those managed in the past to be immune therefrom or untouchable,” he concluded.
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