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Christian leaders speak out against anti-terror bill

The country’s Christian leaders banded together to oppose an anti-terrorism measure “that reeks of the dark days of the Marcos martial law”.

In a joint statement released June 3, the faith leaders claimed that the measure will “insidiously” strip away respect for human rights.

According to them, the bill is likely to be “misused and abused” by those who wish to “lord it over” the people, obliterate opposition, and quell even the most legitimate dissent.

“This bill will cause a further shrinking of democratic space and weakening of public discourse that will be detrimental to our nation,” the statement read.

“We believe that the anti-terrorism bill will insidiously strip away respect for human rights and other civil liberties,” they said.

They also called on other religious leaders to speak out now and oppose the bill before it’s too late. The church leaders are opposing the bill on the following grounds:

• An “overly broad and amorphous” usage of the term terrorism that could be used to attack dissent and curtailment of human rights and civil liberties.

• A “weakening” of the judicial system and the constitutionally enshrined function to check-and-balance the actions of other branches of government.

• Allowances for surveillance, wire-tapping, and invasion of privacy of any individual on mere suspicion of being an alleged terrorist, even without any evidence of wrongdoing.

• Warrantless arrests and detention of persons for a period of 14 days without charges.

• A removal of financial penalties to be awarded to persons detained under false pretense as well as other safeguards against abuse by police officers and soldiers, “thus increasing the likelihood of gross impunity for misconduct by state forces”.

Signatories of the statement included Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Bishop Emergencio Padillo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Bishop Joel Porlares of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, La Salle Br. Armin Luistro and Benedictine Sr. Mary John Mananzan were also among those who supported the statement.

“We are speaking, even as we recognize that to do so is dangerous. For such a time as this, to remain silent only assures the impending destruction and abuse of our people,” they added. CBCPNews

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