By Devin Watkins
Several Christian church leaders have expressed their opposition to a bill that lawmakers say would step up measures to counter terrorism.
The religious leaders say the proposed law “reeks of the dark days of the Marcos martial law.” President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law on the Philippines from 1972 to 1981.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing House Bill 6875 through Congress, saying it is urgently needed to “contain the menace of terrorist acts.”
The lower chamber of Congress approved the bill on Wednesday, taking it one step closer to becoming law. The Senate passed a similar bill in February.
House Bill 6875 would allow life imprisonment without parole for those in any way connected with carrying out a terrorist act, and allow suspects to be detained without an arrest warrant for up to 24 days.
Erode civil liberties
In a joint statement released on Wednesday, Christian leaders in the country claim the bill would lead to a “further shrinking of democratic space and weakening of public discourse.”
“We believe that the anti-terrorism bill will insidiously strip away respect for human rights and other civil liberties,” they say.
Overly broad definition of terorrism
Christian leaders claim the bill rests on an “overly broad” usage of the term terrorism. They say it could be used to stifle dissent and curtail civil liberties.
It could cause a “weakening” of the justice system and checks-and-balances on other branches of government.
Christian leaders also express concern for increased wire-tapping and surveillance without any evidence of wrongdoing, along with warrantless arrests.
Catholic and Protestant signatories
The Administrator of Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos Diocese are among the statement’s signatories.
They were joined by leaders of several other Christian churches, including the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and several Catholic religious men and women.
Concluding their statement, the signatories say that "to remain silent only assures the impending destruction and abuse of our people.”