Anti-terror law is ‘wrong path’ to peace, warns archbishop

Anti-terror law is ‘wrong path’ to peace, warns archbishop

Redemptorist missionaries call to junk the anti-terrorism bill during a rally outside the Baclaran Church in Parañaque City June 12. PHOTO FROM BACLARAN CHURCH

By CBCP News

July 4, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Catholic bishops condemned the approval of a contentious anti-terrorism law, saying the country is “taking the wrong path” to peace.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said they “deeply regret” President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to sign the bill despite concerns raised by various sectors.

“It is morally wrong, we humbly submit, to leave the terms of such a powerful bill to the interpretation of the reckless and the power trippers,” Villegas said.

With the government, the former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said that the Church decries terror and terrorists.

“Unlike our government, however, we do not wish to meet violence and blind rage with heightened violence and legitimated terror,” he said.

“We would rather as one, engage in the difficult but necessary task of building a culture that listens, that leaves none out, that accommodates differences,” Villegas said.

“This same culture of inclusive listening will soon strip extremists of every reason to confine themselves to the margins of society. Peace is the only way to peace,” he added.

Duterte on Friday signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Act that grants authorities even more pressing power.

Human rights advocates particularly raised concerns with provisions allowing warrantless detention and wiretapping of suspects.

Several church groups also questioned the “broad” definition of terrorism in the law, warning it could be misused against critics and other vulnerable population.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the new law “threatens” free speech.

“This anti-terror bill will not give us peace, harmony nor will unite us,” Santos said.

Caritas Philippines, the Church’s social action arm, also deplored Duterte’s “brazen disregard” of the public appeal to defer the signing of the measure until thorough discussion has been done.

“The profound lack of consideration and sensitivity to the more pressing needs of the country by our government is appalling and utterly alarming,” the Caritas said in a statement.

“Thus we will continue to be vigilant of the government’s actions, denounce any form of human rights violation, state repression, and impunity in cracking down on our democratic exercise,” it said.