Laguna bishop, priests ask lawmakers to change vote on ‘terror bill’

Barely a week after the Philippine Congress voted to pass the Anti-Terror Bill, the Diocese of Laguna of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) called on their province’s House Representatives to withdraw support to the measure saying it is “more a curse than a blessing to our nation.”

In a signed statement on June 8, Bishop Rowel Arevalo, together with the clergy of his diocese, warned the lawmakers about the dangers the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 presents to “democratic and constitutional rights.”

The particular appeal was extended to Laguna representatives Dan Fernandez, Ruth Hernandez and Joaquin Chipeco. The three were reported to have voted yes to the biill.

Representatives Sol Aragones and Marlyn Naguiat have abstained from voting.

“We solemnly urge you to reexamine the bill and listen to your conscience. If you voted yes, ask yourselves if you chose a morally upright decision that will not harm the vulnerable and struggling sectors,” read the group’s statement.

They, however, commended representative Benjamin Agarao who admitted to standing up against the controversial anti-terror measure. Agarao is a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

While underscoring the importance of creating a law that would ensure peace and order, the group of clerics believes that the proposed law is an “overboard measure that may only exacerbate the already dire human rights situation in the country.”

Bishop Arevalo and his clergy also called on other members of Congress to “revisit your stand and uphold the Filipino people’s mounting call against the bill.”

They offered an invitation for the legislators to join them in “defending the fundamental and inalienable rights of our people, (and) in advocating a more humane social order.”

According to the group, instead of laws that will increase the people’s hardship, Congress should create more laws that will bring genuine reforms which uplift the lives of the poor.

“Ultimately, improving the lot of our people is best realized through the institution of economic, social and political reforms relevant to the needs of the underprivileged majority, not through measures that can be exploited to suppress their democratic and constitutional rights,” the group said in the statement.

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