A Catholic group on Wednesday filed the 30th petition asking the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In a petition, the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines and members of the Catholic laity also sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of the anti-terrorism law on ground that it infringes on the freedom of religious expression.
The AMRSP is an organization of major superiors of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life in the Philippines represented by their executive secretary, Fr. Angelito Cortez.
The petitioner said that the broad and vague definition of terrorism under the law would impede and affect the mission of the Church.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 affects not just the members of religious congregations, but more importantly, the Christian faithful as it is everyone’s duty to evangelize and do missionary works. This affects the Church’s fundamental right to free religious expression,” the petition stated.
Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan, Anti-Money Laundering Council secretariat Mel Georgie Racela, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Filemon Santos Jr.
The Catholic group said that even before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the United Nations in Dec. 10, 1948, the Catholic Church has already been supportive of efforts to respect the dignity of the human person.
The AMRSP believes that while there have been acts of violence in the country, peaceful means should be used to address the root causes of violent acts comprehensively.
In particular, the petitioner is asking the Court to declare as unconstitutional as unconstitutional Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 25, and 29 of the ATA.
According to the petitioner, the ATA goes against the teachings of Canon Law that says it is a duty and right of all Christian faithful to reach out to all people; and highlights that the Christian faithful must promote social justice and assist the poor.
The petitioner argued that being known as pro-poor, the group can be suspected as “terrorists” under the new law by overzealous law enforcement agents or military operatives.
“As the Church does not distinguish who it helps out, for as long as they are part of the marginalized sectors of society, helping the poor may be construed to mean giving assistance to ‘terrorists’,” the AMRSP said.
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