Religious groups fear being tagged as terrorist, file 30th case vs anti-terror law at SC
MANILA, Philippines – Fearing that their efforts of protecting the less fortunate and preserving a human being’s dignity could be misunderstood as a “terroristic activities,” a church organization has joined the still-growing list of petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
“The Christian conviction is founded on the long-held tradition of the Catholic social teaching of the Church which goes all the way to the teaching of Jesus: respect for the dignity of the human person as the image of God; the right to equal participation and subsidiary in the running of society; the respect for due process and individual right in front of the law; the search for the common good; and solidarity with the socially excluded and preferential option for the poor,” the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) and several lawyers told the Supreme Court.
Petitioners said many provisions in ATA violate the Constitution and their freedom of religious expression.
They said they help the less fortunate, some of which are accused of offenses which could fall under the vague definition of terrorism.
They pointed out that they could be suspected as “terrorists” under the new law by intemperate law enforcement agents or military operatives.
“As the Church does not distinguish who it helps out, for as long as they are part of the marginalized sectors of society, helping the poor may be construed to mean giving assistance to ‘terrorists,’” they added.
The petition cited as an example Father Joey Evangelista of the Missionaries of Jesus, which helps establish schools for indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao.
They said Evangelista he has been the subject of military surveillance with some asking his acquaintances if they know of any ties with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
“If the anti-terrorism act of 2020 is not struck down, Father Evangelista and people like him would be exposed to potential arrest as a suspected terrorist. This is even if he is not,” they said.
This is the 30th petition against the controversial law but the 28th petition based on the official count of the Supreme Court. The other two petitions from Mindanao remain undocketed because these have not been officially received by the SC.
The SC has not issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) as pleaded in various petitions to stop the implementation of the law.
It has set oral arguments on the petitions “on the third week of September at the earliest, and proper notices will be issued once the date is finalized.” [ac]
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