Philippine Catholic bishops criticize Duterte’s ‘pattern of intimidation’

Manila, Jul 20 (efe-epa).- The Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines denounced Monday in a pastoral letter the “pattern of intimidation” imposed by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte and expressed concern about the controversial anti-terrorism law, the closure of the ABS-CBN television channel, the largest Philippine media, and attacks on journalists.

The president signed the anti-terrorism law in June, which came into force this weekend, and has caused great concern among legal experts and human rights organizations, since they fear it will serve to persecute political activism under the guise of terrorism suspicion.

The acting president of the episcopal conference, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, signed a letter published Monday riticizing that the government certified this law as urgent in the midst of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ignored the reluctance to her from opposition parties, unions, business organizations and lawyers.

“The voices against the law were strong, but were not heard,” said David, Bishop of Caloocan, one of Duterte’s greatest critics among the Catholic hierarchy, especially of his war on drugs, which has garnered insults for him. part of the president.

In addition to extending the length of arrest without charge from three days to 24, the law expands the range of crimes that can be considered terrorism to include incitement to terrorism, a category that could be used to punish any demonstration against the government.

“We know very well that it is one thing to be involved in a crime and quite another to be suspected of committing a crime,” said David, who recalled that last year a group of priests and bishops were accused of sedition, charges that were ultimately withdrawn due to lack of evidence.

The Catholic Church, a very influential institution in the country with the most Catholics in Asia -80% of the population-, indicated that the arrests without a judicial order contemplated by the law are reminiscent of the “initial movements” to the declaration of martial law in 1972 by then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who “eventually led to the collapse of democracy and the emergence of a dictatorial regime that terrorized the country for 14 years.”

In the pastoral letter, David also laments the worsening of press freedom with the final closure of ABS-CBN, the oldest television in Southeast Asia and the largest media outlet in the Philippines, after being embroiled in a dispute with Duterte himself, who on numerous occasions he accused her of publishing “unfair” news about him and threatened to withdraw his broadcast license.

“Isn’t it clear how this pattern of bullying creates an atmosphere detrimental to freedom of expression in our country?” Wrote David.

Duterte’s relationship with the Philippine Catholic hierarchy has been controversial since the beginning of his term, when several bishops criticized human rights abuses in the war on drugs, to which the president responded by insulting and even mocking Catholic doctrine. EFE-EPA


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