Panelo ignores Manila Bishop’s dare to sue CBCP over anti-terror law comments
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday brushed aside the dare of Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo for him to file charges against the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) over the group’s recent pastoral letter that raised objections to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
According to Panelo, pursuing legal action against the clergy would only “give them the excuse to decry government suppression, silencing of voices, and weaponization of the law, similar to what detractors and critics recite when they are hailed to court for their transgressions.”
“It is amusing and disturbing to witness a bishop dare — or pose a challenge for — the government to file a case against them. The manner in which it was hurled seemed to demonstrate hubris and hate on his part,” Panelo said in a statement.
“We will simply shrug off such [a] challenge,” he added.
Pabillo’s dare stemmed from Panelo’s earlier remark that CBCP’s latest pastoral letter criticizing the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, “appears to have violated” the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and the State.
The Palace official also accused CBCP of pressuring the Supreme Court in calling for prayers amid the recent signing of the highly controversial measure.
Panelo claimed he did not categorically say that CBCP violated the Constitution and stressed that the government respects the right of members of the clergy to express their dissent on certain issues.
Panelo added: “However, when members of their top ranks, collectively, in the name of their religion, exert pressure and influence on a purely governmental process by publicly posting a powerful rhetorical question such as: ‘Will the highest level of our Judiciary assert its independence, or will they, too, succumb to political pressure?’, they cross the line that separates the church and state.”
Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, on July 3 despite massive opposition from various sectors over fears that it could be used as a potential state weapon against dissent.
Several petitions have already been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law.
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