CNA Staff, Jul 20, 2020 / 13:00 pm
The bishops of the Philippines have issued a pastoral letter accusing the government of undermining the country’s democratic institutions.
The two-page letter, dated July 16, was released ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s annual State of the Nation Address and after the passage of controversial anti-terrorism legislation.
“While a semblance of democracy is still in place and our democratic institutions somehow continue to function, we are already like the proverbial frog swimming in a pot of slowly boiling water,” said the letter, which was signed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, acting president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of the Philippines.
The government responded to the letter July 19, the same day it was made public, strongly rejecting its arguments.
Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief presidential legal counsel, claimed that the letter violated the constitutional separation of Church and state.
In the letter, the bishops said that they had received a request for prayers for Hong Kong from Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. They drew parallels between the new National Security Act that threatened human rights in Hong Kong and the recently passed Anti-Terror Act in the Philippines.
“Apparently, the Chinese government assures the people of Hong Kong that they have nothing to be afraid of, as long as ‘they don’t get involved in any activity that threatens national security.’ Why does this sound eerily familiar to us Filipinos? Because we are in a similar situation,” it said.
The bishops expressed “disbelief” that the anti-terror bill was fast-tracked despite a lockdown intended to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which had killed 1,835 people in the Philippines as of July 20, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.