Bishops, in pastoral letter, ask SC to rule justly on terror law

THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on the Supreme Court to uphold its independence in tackling the petitions filed against the controversial Republic Act (RA) 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act (ATA) of 2020.

In a new pastoral letter, CBCP urged the top magistrates to be among government officials, “who only do as conscience dictates and do not allow themselves to be intimidated or prevented by political pressure from performing their constitutionally mandated duties.”

“Will the highest level of our Judiciary assert its independence, or will they, too, succumb to political pressure?” the bishops asked in the letter, issued to the faithful on sunday.

Similar situation

CBCP stressed the importance of SC’s role to address the growing public rejection of the provisions of the new law, which the protesters claimed were unconstitutional.

The said “dissenting voices” were ignored by the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, when the anti-terror bill was signed into law on July 3, 2020.

“Alas, the political pressure from above seemed to weigh more heavily on our legislators than the voices from below. It only made more evident the blurring of lines between Legislative and the Executive branches of our government,” the bishops said.

CBCP likened the ATA to the National Security Act recently passed by Hong Kong officials with the support of the Chinese government, and widely deemed as a threat to the human rights of Hong Kong residents.

“Why does this sound eerily familiar to us Filipinos? Because we are in a similar situation…. Like them, we are also alarmed about the recent signing into law of the Anti-Terror Act of 2020,” they said.

Flawed system

CBCP is concerned the ATA will only embolden unscrupulous authorities, who have already tagged groups as terrorists or threats without sufficient basis.

To prove its point on the flawed government system, CBCP cited how some Church leaders were falsely charged with sedition by the police and suspects were killed on the basis of mere suspicion of links to illegal drugs, among others.

“Is it not evident to us how this pattern of intimidation creates an atmosphere detrimental to the freedom of expression in our country?” the bishops said.

There are currently 10 petitions filed against ATA at the SC. The latest was filed by a cause-oriented group that included a former president and Chancellor of the University of the Philippines (UP), religious leaders, former government officials, religious leaders, and politicians.

They asked the SC to strike down as unconstitutional ATA in its entirety rather than just some of its provisions from the other petitions.

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