11:35 A.M. EST Feb. 11, 2010 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Protesters ask for the release of Dr. Alexis Montes and 42 other
medical caregivers arrested in the Philippines. UMNS photos by Juliet
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has joined other
religious organizations asking the Philippines government for the humane
treatment and quick release of a group of health workers, including a
church-related doctor, arrested Feb. 6.
The military claims the group was training to make bombs. Family members
of the detained health workers said they were attending a medical
“This incident appears to be a continuation of a military and government
campaign against persons who seek to provide services to and represent
the interests of the poor,” said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim top
executive of the international mission agency. He appealed for prayers
for those seized and their families.
Dr. Alexis Montes, one of two physicians in the group, has ties to
Global Ministries, having served from 2007 to 2009 as a "person in
mission" through the agency’s mission partnership with the United
Church of Christ in the Philippines. He worked at Visayas Community
Medical Center in Cebu Province. The program provides small grants to
mission partner churches for specific ministries.
Dr. Alexis Montes
The 43 persons were arrested in the town of Morong, Rizal Province, at
the home of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, who is chairperson of
the Community Medicine Development Foundation. The house was stormed by
the army and national police on the grounds of a search for a specific
person, who was not present. The 43 were arrested on suspicion of being
supporters of the New People's Army, a Communist rebel group.
The two doctors, a nurse, a midwife and 39 other persons were held
without bail at Camp Capinpin, a military headquarters in Tanay. Some
reporters indicated that the detainees were tortured in an effort to win
confessions of complicity with the New People's Army.
According to news reports, the Armed Forces of the Philippines did not
present the 43 to the court as directed by 2 p.m. on Feb. 12. On Feb.
11, the Supreme Court of the Philippines granted their relatives’
petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the National Council of
Churches of the Philippines, and the World Council of Churches are among
the religious organizations calling for the release and just treatment
of the health workers. The United Methodist Church has sought justice
and called for an end to the killings, abductions and torture of
hundreds of people since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office
Many of the victims have been human rights workers, clergy and
journalists. In 2006, a United Methodist pastor was dragged from his
home, beaten and shot. His family has accused the Philippine military of
Because of historic mission patterns, the Board of Global Ministries
works with both The United Methodist Church in the Philippines and the
UCCP, a denomination that included the Evangelical United Brethren
Church, a constituting part of The United Methodist Church in 1968.
Montes is a leading layman of the UCCP and a well-known figure in the
community health movement in the Philippines. He worked with the UCCP's
national health ministries from 1987 through 2004. He has a strong
commitment to medical services for the poor in rural areas.
*Wright is an author and consultant to the United Methodist Board of
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470