Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2007 > March 2007 > News - March 2007 Archives
Filipino church leaders appeal to U.N. panel

 

A delegation of church leaders from the Philippines presents a report on human rights violations in their country. A UMNS photo by Liberato Bautista.
A delegation of church leaders from the Philippines presents a report on human rights violations in their country. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Liberato Bautista.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

March 26, 2007

Filipino church leaders are asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an urgent, fact-finding investigation into "the extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of violations of human rights in the Philippines."

Seven cases of killings of church people, including a United Methodist pastor and couple, are among the "gross violations of human rights" documented in the recent ecumenical report "Let the Stones Cry Out."

Prepared by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the report documents 836 politically motivated killings since 2001 when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president. Among the dead are teachers, journalists, students, clergy and religious leaders.

The delegation appealed to the U.N. council during its March 19-21 visit to Geneva. Its members included representatives of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Philippines Ecumenical Bishops' Forum, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Moro Christian People's Alliance and The United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Liberato Bautista, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said the United Nations and other international bodies are critical to "admonishing members of the international community when they slacken or slide into systematic violations of human rights."

Bautista said "accountability and transparency (are) important in the promotion and protection of human rights. The international community has a role to play in this promotion because human rights are common global obligations and aspirations."

Sharing their report

The delegation, known as the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines, has been touring and speaking with various religious, civic and government leaders to increase awareness of what its members call "an obscene climate of political repression" in the Philippines.

At possible risk to their own lives, several members testified March 14 before U.S. lawmakers in Washington, describing the killings and a climate of fear in the Philippines as part of a campaign to eliminate activist leaders and silence their protests. They called on the U.S. government to ensure its military and development aid would not be used by the Philippine government to perpetrate human rights abuses.

In Geneva, the delegation presented the ecumenical report to the German Mission, the Philippine Mission, Franciscans International, U.N. Office of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation.

"We have followed with great concern the developments in the Philippines and are grateful to the National Council of Churches in the Philippines for keeping us informed."
–The Rev. Samuel Kobia

The Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya and top executive of the World Council of Churches, thanked the delegation "because of the importance of what you bring before us – human rights violations in the Philippines – and the high level of importance I attach to the issue.

"The last time I was in the Philippines was when the churches were confronting the dictatorial government of President (Ferdinand) Marcos," said Kobia. "And now it is almost as if today we have the same issues of human rights violations. We have followed with great concern the developments in the Philippines and are grateful to the National Council of Churches in the Philippines for keeping us informed."

‘Fear and intimidation’

The delegation met with Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, and expressed concern about the killing of Siche Gandinao, a witness who appeared before Alston in an earlier hearing.

"Witnesses are not enthusiastic in appearing before the government Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission precisely because of fear and intimidation," said Amirah Ali Lidasan, co-founder of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance in southern Philippines.

The Rev. Deogracias Iniguez, Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Kalookan and co-chair of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, strongly admonished the Philippine government to stop its militarization and called for electoral reform that safeguards the sanctity of the ballot and avoids any question of legitimacy for any elected official. He urged the government to address the high degree of graft and corruption in the Philippines, cited as the most corrupt nation in Asia by a recent Hong Kong-based risk assessment agency.

The Rev. Marma Urbano, a minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, talked about her "church being under siege, with 16 of the 26 church people killed being members of the UCCP."

She said "the killings are an affront to the God of life whom we serve; the taking of life, especially outside of the judicial process, is plain wrong."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Information for this report was provided by the Rev. Liberato Bautista, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

Delegates urge U.S. to help stop murders in Philippines

Prayer event focuses on human rights in Philippines

Gunmen kill United Methodist local pastor in Philippines

The Philippines Report on Political Murders: A Mission Comment and Commentary

Resources

Global Connections: The Philippines

United Methodist Board of Church and Society

World Council of Churches

National Council of Churches


Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text