DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Heads of 16 Jesuit and La Salle schools, including three from the Ateneo universities in Mindanao, issued a unified statement on Friday urging President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Anti-Terrorism Bill of House Bill 6875.
Fr. Joel Tabora SJ (Ateneo de Davao), Fr. Roberto Yap SJ (Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro), and Fr. Karel San Juan SJ (Ateneo de Zamboanga) signed the joint statement, which criticized the law and the timing of its legislation.
“While we acknowledge the need to fight terrorism, we find the passage of the bill ill-timed,” their statement reads.
“At this time, our priorities should be shoring up our health system, providing support to our health workers, ensuring food for our communities, stimulating the economy and providing jobs for our people,” they added.
Coming after over two months into the Covid-19 crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the Anti-Terror Bill, which the House of Representatives passed with little deliberation in two days.
The statement pointed out that many of the proposed bill’s provisions “are couched in language that is sweeping and equivocal as to be easily subject to misinterpretation and abuse,” as they fear this can be used instead to oppress critics.
“We, therefore, appeal to the President to listen to the pleas of our people who are already burdened by the pandemic, and to veto this particular version of the bill,” they said.
Among the provisions, the university heads questioned include the broad definition of terrorism.
They also question the power of the Anti-Terrorism Council, a body formed by this Act, to designate and identify who are terrorists.
They point out that many of the provisions weaken the protection of one’s privacy and safeguards to arrest and detention without warrants.
They urge the government and Congress instead to “work together to craft a better version that can uproot terrorism while addressing the people’s concerns about their basic rights.”
They also urged the public to remain vigilant, and safeguard the people’s rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.(davaotoday.com)