Protesters wearing masks carry anti-terror bill placards as they march at a university campus in Manila on June 4, a day after Congress passed an anti-terror bill which critics say will curtail civil liberties. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
The Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP) has released a statement calling on President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign an anti-terrorism bill recently passed by Congress, citing its purported unconstitutional provisions. The CEAP, an association of 1,500 Philippine Catholic schools, has joined human rights and church groups in condemning the broad definition of “terrorism” and the delegation of power to Duterte in determining probable cause, a power only reserved for courts. “While the CEAP recognizes the paramount obligation of the state to combat terrorism, it decries the articulation of those provisions in the bill,” says the statement. The group said Duterte’s bill conflicted with Catholic tenets by immediately branding a government critic a “terrorist” without due process of law. “Will this spell the demise of free and open discourse in schools insofar as dissent may be prejudged by state actors as a terrorist act?” the association’s statement said.
This was not the first time the CEAP had criticized a Philippine president. In 2009, the association opposed attempts by Gloria Arroyo to extend her presidency. Arroyo had pushed for a constitutional change postponing the 2010 election. The CEAP’s statement came after an announcement by lawmakers that the bill had been delivered to Duterte for signing at his official residence in Manila. The association also said in its statement that its member schools were “scrambling” and “fervently looking” for ways to survive the suspension of classes due to the Covid-19 crisis. The Department of Education earlier announced that private school students would migrate to the state school system due to their parents’ financial constraints caused by the pandemic’s effect on the economy. “Private schools may lose students because of the impact of the economic crisis of the pandemic. Most children will go to public schools nearest their homes because they won’t have to spend extra money on transport expenses,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said. Meanwhile, Jesuit and De La Salle school administrators pointed to the crisis caused by the pandemic in their criticism of Duterte’s anti-terror bill. Twenty Jesuit and De La Salle school presidents claimed its passage bill was “ill-timed” considering people’s economic struggles. “At this time, our priorities should be shoring up our health system, providing support to our health workers, ensuring food for our communities, stimulating the economy and providing jobs for our people,” they said. “We, therefore, appeal to the president to listen to the pleas of our people who are already burdened by the pandemic and to veto this bill.”
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