“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11.11-12 RSV)
The Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines expresses grave concern over the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which is now approved by both Houses of Congress. At a time when the country is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and when the call for everybody to work together to address this health crisis is paramount, we believe that this legislative measure should take a back seat and go through a more thorough deliberation at a more appropriate atmosphere or be debunked altogether.
We support legislative measures to strengthen the prevention of any effort to cause loss of lives, bodily injury or destruction of property for political, ideological or religious purposes. But, we are very much concerned with the use of such measures to constrict our democratic space and inhibit in any way the exercise of our constitutional rights. We believe that a vibrant democracy allows for dissent, criticism or opposition of proposed or actual public policies, programs and actions so that as a nation we will all find the best way to move forward in ensuring the peace, justice and prosperity of our people. We re-iterate the apostolate of the church as peacemaker and peacekeeper, upon which this call rests.
We are especially concerned with the weakening of systems of checks and balances desirable in any legislative measure to prevent abuse especially since in our long struggle to craft a better democratic society, these systems have often been challenged by mere suspicions and tagging of personalities, organizations and institutions. We should instead be finding ways to strengthen such systems.
As we express this concern, we pray that the Holy Spirit which descended upon us on Pentecost guide our legislators and government officials as they work to address the overwhelming challenges we face at this time.
05 June 2020
Quezon City, Philippines
THE MOST REV. JOEL A. PACHAO THE RT. REV. REX R.B. REYES, JR.
Prime Bishop & Chair, Council of Bishops Bishop of Central Philippines and
Secretary, Council of Bishops