A Protestant bishop warned that people who are vocal in commenting on social issues are in “peril” with the implementation of the Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Bishop Reuel Marigza, secretary general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said that even without the law, violations of human rights have already been happening.
“That is why church people who speak against bad policies and standing for human rights are more at risk now,” said the bishop.
Bishop Marigza, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, was speaking during a media briefing on July 17, on the impact of the new law on human rights.
The prelate cited the case of UCCP Pastor Marcelino Mariano and his family who were accused by the military of being members of the communist-led New People’s Army.
“The military accuses them of being rebels because of their involvement with people’s organizations and issues in the region,” said Bishop Marigza.
He noted that soldiers have been visiting the pastor in his church and were talking to church council members to pressure the pastor to abandon his advocacy.
Bishop Marigza said Pastor Mariano is not the only UCCP member accused of being a rebel. He said authorities spare no religious denomination from suspicion and red-tagging.
In February, soldiers from the 81st Infantry Battalion tagged members of the Philippine Independent Church in Ilocos Norte province of being rebel supporters.
Among those named by soldiers were Rev. Rogelio Molina and his wife, and Bishop Emely Dacuycuy of the Diocese of Batac.
Earlier, Bishop Jose Elmer Mangalinao of the Catholic Diocese of Bayombong also expressed apprehensions on the new anti-terrorism law.
He said the diocese could not support a policy that endangers the rights and freedom of the people.
The Catholic prelate said the law “is prone to abuse and will threaten our undeniable rights and freedom of expression, of speech, and due process of law.”
Bishop called on the faithful, especially those who experiencing threats and harassment, to continue with their advocacies.
“The Lord gave us this work, so we should continue working for human rights and social justice,” he said, adding that authorities also persecuted and punished Jesus for preaching truth and justice.
“Like him, we should be strong and faithful to our work despite the risk,” said the prelate.