CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A group of Christian church leaders has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the anti-terror bill (ATB) as it will not serve to end the country’s conflicts.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), in a joint statement released Thursday, June 4, suggested instead that the government’s meager sources should be used for setting and re-building the economic and social structures which the Filipinos need to fight the pandemic instead of using it for anti-terror expenditures.
“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,” read the PEPP statement.
No to ATB
“As Christian leaders, our opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875) is based on our enduring call for broader peace,” PEPP said.
Peace they said is not silencing the voices of dissent and the incarceration and destruction of lives that are defined as terrorists but one that addresses the root causes of dissent and seeks resolution by negotiation.
The bill, PEPP pointed out, “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.”
The church leaders said their concern on the bill’s passage stemmed from the recent practice of loosely using the terms “terrorist” and “terrorist groups” and indiscriminately in defining enemies of the state and in derailing the peace negotiations between the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
PEPP said it upholds the primacy of principled peace negotiations to end the ongoing armed conflict between the GRP and NDFP.
In the past, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte has declared the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as a terrorist organization “beginning an era of referencing the NDFP as Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) and closing the door to peace talks.”
“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,” PEPP said.
PEPP noted that 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.”
The pastoral statement was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, head of the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro; Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP general secretary; Rev. Rex Reyes Jr., of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum; Rev. Aldrin Penamora, director of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the Phil. Council of Evangelical Churches; Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., PEPP head of secretariat; and Sr. Mary John Mananzan, of the Women and Gender Concerns of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc. (BMFI) said if the ATB becomes a law, it “will legitimize and institutionalize the so-called ‘national security ideology’ or what was then the Marcos Martial Law dictum: ‘Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa.’
“Those who were critical of the Administration were quickly branded as terrorists, arrested, tortured, detained and even killed,” the group, which has been active in supporting and initiating peace efforts in Mindanao, said.
“Instead of uniting us, it will divide us. It will isolate and alienate peaceful dissent and activism. It will not help build inclusive peace,” it added. (davaotoday.com)