South Central Luzon Bishops Conference’s Statement Opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has fast-tracked the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a measure whose provisions trample on our human rights, civil liberties and democracy. If this becomes law, it could easily be used to frame or fault innocent people, come after those who bring their moral and political convictions into the public sphere, or jail those simply echoing opinions through retweets, shares and reactions.
We, the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference (SCLBC), strongly oppose this idolatrous law that would willingly sacrifice our constitutional rights to the unholy altar of an authoritarian regime.
The “Anti-Terrorism Bill” carries vague terms and generalizations that could categorize even legitimate dissent and peaceful rights defense as terrorism. It bypasses due process, threatens freedom of thought and expression, and the right to liberty and privacy, among others. It also allows police and military personnel to surveil private citizens, arrest them without warrant and detain them for prolonged periods, all without fines for erring state agents.
We lament how scheming our leaders have become, using the lockdown to consolidate power instead of spreading out help to citizens struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hearts lament the fact that, in a few days, we could be living in a nation where evil is legal, morality is obliterated and democracy is dead.
With the government’s penchant for abusing its powers at the expense of the people’s rights, to nod to the token safeguards of the Anti-Terrorism Bill would be reckless. We need stronger measures for accountability before we can begin to entrust a powerful law to a government that liberally red-tags groups and individuals, publishes unverified matrixes and lists to public-shame, and tends to run on rage and vindication.
While a law to better protect citizens against terrorists is necessary, it would be improper to railroad the Anti-Terrorism Bill in its current form. The bill simply needs more deliberation to ensure it is effective and not overboard, powerful but not disrespectful of rights and freedoms. Letting it pass into law now would be like “throwing our pearls to pigs.”
“We firmly stand by our conviction that human rights, civil liberties and democracy celebrate God’s gift of dignity. Therefore, these values must be defended, especially against tyrants. Right now, this requires us, as Christians, to rise up courageously and resist the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which can easily become an authoritarian’s tool of oppression. A deluge of violations will follow if we allow it to become law. When that happens, mounting a righteous resistance may be branded terrorism. It will have been too late.
RT. REV. ROWEL AREVALO
Chairperson, South Central Luzon Bishops Conference
Bishop of Laguna
Bishop-in-Charge of Masbate
MOST REV. GODOFREDO DAVID
Bishop of Rizal and Pampanga
RT. REV. VICENTE SALVADOR BALLESTEROS
Bishop of Greater Manila
RT. REV. JOSELITO CRUZ
Bishop of Bataan and Bulacan
RT. REV. EMILIANO DOMINGO
Bishop of Cavite
RT. REV. PEDRO OJASCASTRO
Bishop of Marinduque, Quezon, Batangas and Camarines
RT. REV. RONELIO FABRIQUIER
Bishop of Romblon and Mindoro
RT. REV. JOVY FODULLA
Bishop of Palawan
RT. REV. JOEL PORLARES
IFI General Secretary
SCLBC Auxiliary Member
June 3, 2020
(Photo by Mark Saludez)