MANILA, Philippines – Leaders of traditionally competing Catholic schools joined forces on Friday, June 5, to protest an anti-terror bill that critics warn can be used to quell dissent against the Duterte government.
Though viewed as rivals especially in basketball, leaders of Ateneo and La Salle schools across the country issued a statement against the anti-terror bill. The Ateneo network of schools is run by the Jesuits, the Catholic Church’s largest male religious order, to which Pope Francis belongs, while the La Salle network is managed by the La Salle brothers, known worldwide as topnotch educators.
“Instead of being a measure to protect our people, in the wrong hands, this bill can be used to oppress our people,” leaders of Ateneo and La Salle declared in their joint statement Friday.
Signatories from among Jesuit priests include the following:
- Father Primitivo Viray Jr, SJ, provincial superior or head of the Jesuits in the Philippines
- Father Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University
- Father Roberto Yap, SJ, president of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan
- Father Joel Tabora, SJ, president of Ateneo de Davao University
- Father Roberto Exequiel Rivera, SJ, president of Ateneo de Naga University
- Father Karel San Juan, SJ, president of Ateneo de Zamboanga University
- Father Manuel Uy Jr, SJ, president of Sacred Heart School Cebu-Ateneo de Cebu
- Father Aristotle Dy, SJ, president of Xavier School
- Father Joseph Raymund Patrick Sanchez, SJ, president of Ateneo de Iloilo
Signatories from among La Salle brothers include the following:
- Brother Armin Luistro, FSC, provincial superior of the Lasallian East Asia District
- Brother Raymundo Suplido, FSC, president of De La Salle University
- Brother Bernard Oca, FSC, president of De La Salle Santiago Zobel and Saint Jaime Hilario School De La Salle Bagac
- Brother Augustine Boquer, FSC, president of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas and De La Salle Medical Health Sciences Incorporated
- Brother Edmundo Fernandez, FSC, president of La Salle Greenhills and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
- Brother Joaquin Martinez, FSC, president of the University of Saint La Salle and Saint Joseph’s High School-La Salle
- Brother Dante Jose Amisola, FSC, president of De La Salle-Lipa
Bill ‘adds to anxieties, fears’
In their statement, the Jesuit priests and La Salle brothers said that while it is important to fight terrorism, “we find the passage of the bill ill-timed.”
The House of Representatives recently passed the bill on 3rd and final reading after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent. The United Nations human rights agency warned against the bill, while critics in the Philippines, including Catholic and Protestant leaders, condemned it.
The Jesuit priests and La Salle brothers pointed out, “As our people continue to struggle in coping with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our attention, efforts, and resources should focus on fighting the virus and in helping our people.” They also cautioned against “hastily passing a bill that could, with its haphazard construction, wrongly impair sacred constitutional rights.”
“The anti-terror bill adds to people’s anxieties and fears. Many of the provisions under this bill are couched in language that is sweeping and equivocal as to be easily subject to misinterpretation and abuse,” the signatories said. (READ: EXPLAINER: Comparing dangers in old law and anti-terror bill)
They cited worrisome parts of the bill, such as “the expanded and vague definitions of a ‘terrorist,’” the powers given to a group of Cabinet members to designated any group as terrorist, threats to privacy, and the spectre of warrantless arrests.
The Jesuit priests and La Salle brothers then appealed to Duterte to veto the anti-terror bill in its current form. They also urged the public to stay vigilant and to protect their rights under the Constititution.
“Our people are under siege on several fronts. May God grant us wisdom and courage in this time of need,” they said. – Rappler.com