A group of Catholic and Protestant Church leaders took up the cudgels for a Filipino medical doctor who has been tagged by the government as a “terrorist individual.”
The country’s Anti-Terrorism Council on Monday, January 31, announced its designation of Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro as a “terrorist individual” in a resolution dated Dec. 7, 2022.
“Verified information, sworn statements, and other evidence gathered by Philippine law enforcement and security agencies, affirmed that [Castro] violated Sections 6, 10, and 12 of the [Anti-Terrorism Act],” read the council’s statement.
Castro, a physician and a longtime advocate for tribal communities in Mindanao, was arrested in February 2022 on kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges.
A court junked the charges a month later and she was released.
In a statement, the ecumenical group “One Faith. One Nation. One Voice.” said Castro “is not a terrorist” and described the doctor as “an example of someone who understood journeying with farmers and indigenous peoples at the margins of society and put this understanding into service and action.”
The group said that when Church leaders challenged the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, they hoped to stop the “sinister hand of militarists, who would take advantage of the law to attack civil-society leaders, social activists, and even those pushed toward civil unrest.”
“The vague and over-broad definition of terrorism is prone to abuse,” read the group’s statement signed by Catholic bishop Gerardo Alminaza of Diocese of San Carlos, Philippine Independent Church bishop Rhee M. Timbang, Minnie Ann Mata-Calub, acting general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Sister Rowena Pineda, MMS, chairperson of the Sisters Association of Mindanao.
Sister Ma. Lisa Ruedas of the Daughters of Charity, Rev. Dr. Federico Villanueva of the group Faith and Bayan, and Benedictine nun Rosalind Tanhueco also signed the statement.
The group said Castro’s “arbitrary designation as a ‘terrorist individual’ exposes the rotten core of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.”
“Not only has Dr. Naty been denied due process, but even we, the concerned public, are not able to weigh and measure any alleged evidence against her,” added the statement.
The Anti-Terrorism Council alleged that Castro was involved in the planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism and recruitment and for supposedly providing material support to terrorist organizations.
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