June 16, 2020
We in the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao join the growing cry of the churches and the people to scrap the new Anti-Terror Bill or the impending Revised Human Security Act.
We are one with the stance of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Catholic universities and institutions, churches of other denominations, multisectoral groups, and various people’s organizations in calling this rushed legislation anti-democratic, anti-people, and anti-poor.
We call out the ironies in President Duterte’s certifying the bill as urgent. Amid a pandemic that is driving jeepney drivers to beg for food in the streets, workers risking their lives without the benefit of mass testing, daily wage earners losing their sources of income, women and children bearing the pangs of hunger as well as incidents of domestic violence, this government has turned its obsession to passing the ATB. The armed skirmishes that culminated in the Eid’l Fitr bombing of a Moro community in Maguindanao was made the reason for the rushed passage of the ATB. We heard the anguish of our Moro brothers and sisters over the death of two Moro girls as a result of government mortar shelling on such a holy day for Muslims. Who are the real terrorists in this instance?
As women religious in Mindanao, with missions in remote rural communities of Moro, Christians, and Lumad, we have lived experiences of terrorism. Together with mothers and widows, we wail the loss of lives and the impact of terrorism on our people, whenever cathedrals and mosques, ports and terminals, public markets and public spaces are bombed.
But since our association’s founding in the belly of the people’s movement against the Marcos Dictatorship, we have come to the realization that the more draconian measures are being imposed by the government in the name of anti-terrorism, the more our people are being terrorized by militarization, hamletting, enforced evacuation, violence against women and children, torture, and extra-judicial killings.
These are the realities that have been confronting us and have become more stark to this day.
How can we have full faith in this government to protect us from terror when it has shown the ability to make up charges of sedition and other imagined crimes against our own bishops? They are our Shepherds who have merely voiced out against the government’s own terrorism on the poor in the name of the war on drugs. How can we believe in a government that speaks ill of our priests (not to mention the Pope!) some of whom have been felled for their critical advocacy against largescale mining and other social issues?
How can we believe that contrary opinions and social dissent are not targeted under the ATB when there are already 700 Mindanawons facing trumped up charges for their defense of lands and livelihoods? How can this government be entrusted with upholding our human rights when our own Sr. Emma Cupin, MSM and countless others are facing similar false charges for their work of uplifting the poor? Many of our members assigned in far-flung communities are witnesses to the dehumanization of our people through enforced evacuations, aerial bombardments, and a litany of grave human rights abuses.
There is more than enough reason to fear the ATB. History is replete with testimonies to the tyranny of “anti-terrorism” measures including the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and the State of Lawlessness which have, among others, caused the displacement of more than half a million people in Marawi City and the Lanao provinces. We have seen how these were applied under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who justified the imposition of Martial Law using the spectre of terrorism nationwide and persecuting all opposition through the Anti-Subversion Law.
Once cast in stone, the Revised Human Security Act will further aggravate the suffering of the Moro people, Lumad communities, and poor farmers. Worse, the overly broad provisions of the ATB will potentially target solidarity groups like churches, academics, and human rights advocates as “aiding and abetting terrorism.” We fear for our Moro brothers and sisters who have time and again been finger-pointed as the “usual suspects.” We fear for the Bakwit School and the Lumad bakwits whose schools have been unjustly closed and whose ancestral lands are targeted for wholesale extraction.
Amidst all these, we strengthen our faith in Jesus whose passion and death reflects the injustice and oppression suffered by our people. Jesus was murdered by the tyranny and terrorism of the Roman Empire. His work for justice and peace was labeled as seditious. But the followers of his ministry overcame this persecution and lived to proclaim his continuing promise of liberation for the poor and the oppressed.
“O Lord, You have heard the longings of the poor and lowly; you encourage them and you listen to their cry for justice, defending the orphan and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals may strike terror no more.” (Psalm 10:17-18)
Sr. Rowena Pineda, MMS
Chairperson, Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN)