MANILA Apostolic Administrator Broderick Pabillo called on President Rodrigo Duterte to focus on the Covid-19 crisis that has caused job losses and hunger in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Dapat bigyang-priyoridad ang … mga tao ngayon. ‘Yong health, ‘yong [Covid-19] pandemic na tumataas ang bilang ng mga infected. ‘Yong mga problema ng tao ngayon ay trabaho [dahil] wala silang trabaho. Marami ang mga nagugutom na. ‘Yong mga pag-aaral ng mga tao. ‘Yong transportasyon,” Bishop Pabillo told the Varsitarian.

(Duterte should prioritize health [in his SONA] because the number of people infected with Covid-19 is increasing. The government should also pay attention to other problems such as employment, education and transportation.)

Pabillo had tested positive for Covid-19 but said his church ministry would continue through online meetings.

Okay naman ako [at] normal ang aking nararamdaman. [N]ag-meeting kami ng mga grupo at nag-uusap kung ano ang mga gagawin. Kahit na hindi ako makapagmisa, ang homily ko ay babasahin ng magmimisa,” he said.

(I am okay [and] I feel normal. [T]hrough online meetings, we meet in groups and talk about church matters. Even if I can’t preside over the mass, my homily will be read by the priest during the mass.)

On July 24, Pabillo, joined by 20 other religious leaders, led the filing of the 18th petition against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court.

Outspoken religious leaders could be tagged as terrorists based on the terror law, Pabillo said.

Maraming mga simbahan ang tumutulong sa mga communities [tulad] ng urban poor, workers, at mga katutubo. Dahil sa pagtulong ng simbahan sa mga nangangailangan, maaaring pagbintangan ang simbahan na mga terrorists,” he said.

(Many churches are helping communities [such as] the urban poor, workers and indigenous people. When the church serves those who are in need, the church can be accused of being terrorists.)

The prelate said the Supreme Court should look at the vague provisions of the law that could be unconstitutional and abused by authorities to violate the rights of Filipinos.

He emphasized that the Church has the freedom to speak out on social issues.

Kaya ang separation of Church and state ay ‘yon ang mandato sa gobyerno. Ang gobyerno ay [d]apat igalang ang Simbahan. Ang gobyerno ay hindi [dapat] magkakaroon ng favoritism sa isang simbahan. [A]ng mga taong simbahan, kung mga Pilipino sila, ay malaya silang magsalita,” he said.

(The separation of Church and state is the mandate of the government. The government should respect the Church. The government should not practice favoritism toward a church. The faithful, if they are Filipinos, are free to speak.)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, whose members are also among the petitioners, issued a pastoral letter on July 16 denouncing the Terror Law.

The law allows detention of up to 24 days without a warrant of arrest, surveillance of up to 90 days and the designation of individuals and groups as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council composed of Cabinet members.