Our opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is our peace
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), is saddened by the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875), by the House of Representatives which will now be submitted to the President for final action. We are concerned that the Bill will greatly impact on the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Our alarm on the Bill’s passing stems from the recent practice of using the terms Terrorist and Terrorist Groups loosely and indiscriminately in defining enemies of the State and in derailing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Even several civil society organizations, including our member confederation, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) have been tagged as such, placing them in grave threat.
At a pivotal moment in the possible return to the peace talks on December 5, 2017, President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army as a terrorist organization beginning an era of referencing the NDFP as Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) and closing the door to peace talks. On November 5, 2019, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense in a Congressional briefing listed the NCCP along with various humanitarian organizations as among “CTG Front Organizations”.
PEPP upholds the primacy of principled peace negotiations to end the ongoing armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875), only gives further legitimacy to the criminalization of expressions of freedom and democracy and will translate into more repression in the short term and more violence in the long term.
At a time of great national humanitarian crisis when the country is faced by a pandemic that threatens everyone and when the reality of hunger and other health concerns stalk the people in ways never before experienced, it is the call for national unity against the pandemic and its serious long-term implications that is more urgent than ever. The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform appeals to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to hear the voices of Filipinos who bear the promise of peace in their hearts and veto this Bill when it comes to him for action.
At times like these, the Anti-Terrorism Bill will not serve to end the conflicts of our land. The meager resources of government are most needed not for anti-terror expenditures but for setting and re-building the economic and social structures that everyone needs as we fight the pandemic before us.
As Christian leaders, our opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875) is based on our enduring call for broader peace. A peace that is not just silencing of the voices of dissent and the incarceration and destruction of lives that are defined as terrorists. But a peace that addresses the root causes of dissent and seeks resolution by negotiation. This call reflects our deep affinity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who speaks of a people, a nation, a brotherhood and sisterhood that is called to settle disputes in peaceful dialogue, the words of Jesus teaches us that where there is conflict, “first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gifts.” (Matthew 5:24).
ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, SJ. DD.
Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
THE RT. REVD. REX B. REYES, JR.
Ecumenical Bishops Forum
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
SR. MARY JOHN D. MANANZAN, OSB
Office of Women Gender Commission
Association of Major Religious Superiors
REV. DR. ALDRIN PENAMORA
PCEC Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission
BISHOP Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., DD
PEPP Head of the Secretariat
Co-chair, Ecumenical Bishops Forum