MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The country's young student-athletes are making their voices heard, after the Congress on Wednesday passed the controversial House Bill 6875 on its third and final reading.
The bill seeks to amend the country's current anti-terrorism laws, but lawyers and human rights activists have protested against it, warning that it can be used to curtail basic rights. The protests have gained traction on social media, with "#JunkTerrorBill" trending on Twitter.
Several UAAP athletes have aired their sentiments, with University of the Philippines star Kobe Paras among the most vocal. The Mythical Team member has used his vast platform on social media to bring attention to social issues both here and in the United States.
He also spoke of his intent to keep speaking up, despite being told that he is "just an athlete."
"I am a human being," said Paras. "God gave me legs to stand up for what is right. God gave me a mouth to speak up for those whose voices couldn't be heard."
Paras went so far as to ask his sponsor, Adidas, to "stand up with me and my fellow adidas athletes who are speaking up against all the issues here in Manila," in an Instagram story.
Three-time Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena of the Ateneo de Manila University is promoting the Change.org petition that demands the junking of the bill on his Instagram page, while his younger sister, Dani, encouraged others to "fight for what's right."
Jack Animam of National University, meanwhile, pointed out that the country is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while Congress instead tackled the anti-terrorism bill that was certified "urgent" by President Rodrigo Duterte.
She also signed the Change.org petition and encouraged others to do the same.
UAAP executive director Atty. Rebo Saguisag said the league has no issue with the athletes speaking out about different causes.
"If done in their status as individuals, the league is quite liberal," he told ABS-CBN News via text. "But ideally, they should adhere to such fundamental values as respect, fairness, civility, honesty, and responsibility."
"These should be manifest not only in athletic participation, but also in all aspects of their student life," he added. "Sometimes, it's not so much what you say, but how you say it."
From a personal standpoint, Saguisag said that speaking out and using one's platform is a necessity.
"I personally believe that voices, not echoes, are needed in a vibrant democracy," he said of his own stance on the matter.
All over the world, athletes have been using their voices to bring attention to social causes. NBA players -- including Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jaylen Brown -- have marched to demand justice for George Floyd and an end to police brutality against African-Americans in the United States. Football players in Europe have taken a knee in support.
PBA players, too, have not been silent. Many Filipino-American players have spoken up against racial inequality, and some have also begun to call attention to issues in the Philippines.
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