President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Sunday said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines' latest pastoral letter, which criticizes the government, “appears to have” violated the doctrine of the separation of church and state as mandated by the Constitution.
He added that even if the organization's statement is not a violation of the concept, the CBCP’s letter “parrots the detractors' favored false narrative that [the anti-terror law] is violative of the Constitution.”
In a pastoral letter dated July 16, 2020, Philippine Catholic bishops denounced the government’s “pattern of intimidation” as it expressed concern over the passage of the controversial anti-terrorism law, the shutting down of ABS-CBN and the harassment of media personalities with multiple charges, among others.
CBCP said the new anti-terrorism law reminds them of the horrors of warrantless arrests and detentions initiated in 1972, which eventually led to the demise of democracy and the rise of a dictatorial regime that had stayed on for 14 years.
The CBCP said warrantless arrest is legalized in the new law, just as it was in 1972 through the "ASSOs" (arrest, search and seizure orders) initiated by Ferdinand Marcos.
Moreover, the CBCP cited the priests and bishops who were falsely accused of sedition and inciting sedition by the police; Senator Leila De Lima, who remains to be detained on alleged drug-related charges; and the “chilling effect” of the closure of ABS-CBN.
Panelo said CBCP’s advocacy, coupled with its call to its faithful followers to prayer “effectively exerts religious influence or pressure” on the Supreme Court to “decide against a national law designed to combat the global crime of terrorism and to secure the safety of the Filipinos.”
He added petitions against the law should be dismissed for “utter lack of merit in procedural and substantive grounds.”
“It appears that all petitioners have adopted a favorite phrase—‘chilling effect’—in describing the law's provisions when implemented,” Panelo said.
“The law was passed weeks ago and there have been no signs of any ‘chilling effect’ on those who wish to publicly air their grievances against the government. In fact, the voices of dissent are in wild reckless abandon,” he added.
Further, Panelo said the CBCP “only has to trust our judicial system given that adopting an opposite mindset only undermines the legal institutions.” — Ma. Angelica Garcia/BM, GMA News