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Religious superiors voice concern against anti-terror bill

Religious superiors voice concern against anti-terror bill

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines added its voice to the growing chorus against the proposed anti-terrorism law. AMRSP FILE PHOTO

By CBCP News

June 4, 2020

Manila, Philippines

An influential group of church leaders voiced concern on the proposed anti-terrorism law, citing the Duterte administration’s supposed abysmal track record in handling dissent.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) said the bill’s definition of terrorism is “very vague” and prone to “abuse and misuse”.

“This bill can be abused to stifle dissent and curtail rights to free speech, to organize and form associations, to peaceable assembly in redress of grievances,” read the AMRSP statement.

The group also call out the administration for prioritizing the anti-terror measure while the Philippines is in the midst of a pandemic.

All the while, they said that Filipinos are still asking for mass testing, economic relief, and a comprehensive plan to address the health crisis but lawmakers “traversed the path of the wicked and ruthless”.

“Terrorism is not our immediate concern. Marawi’s rehabilitation and the continued displacement of communities should be our priority. People’s health, safety and well-being should be first in our agenda,” the religious leaders said.

“These are the urgent concerns that we as a people need to address. These are the challenges that government can address by channeling resources for its resolution,” they added.

The AMRSP made the statement after the House of Representatives approved the controversial “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” on Wednesday, and sending it to President Rodrigo Duterte’s desk.

An overwhelming 173 lawmakers voted for the passage of the measure, with 31 negative and 29 abstentions.

With the lower chamber entirely adopting the Senate version passed in February, the bill goes straight to Duterte for signature.

The AMRSP has long been saying they have been consistent in their concern for victims of human rights violations.

Formed in 1972, is it is the joint forum of heads of religious congregations, which run most of the country’s top Catholic universities and institutions.

The AMRSP played a crucial role during the Martial Law years when it was founded. The association and various congregations opened its seminaries and convents to provide sanctuaries to countless victims of human rights.