Church leaders seek U.S. intervention in Philippines
Feb. 28, 2007
NOTE: Photographs available at http://umns.umc.org.
A UMNS Report By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS)-U.S. and Filipino church leaders are urging the U.S. Congress to address human rights violations and killings in the Philippines.
Specifically, church leaders are asking Congress to hold a hearing or face-to-face meetings with a delegation from the Philippines scheduled to visit Washington March 12-14. United Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero of Manila is a delegation member.
During its Feb. 26-27 meeting in New York, the governing board of the National Council of Churches approved a resolution supporting a congressional hearing or "other meaningful measures that address the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines."
The Rev. Bob Edgar, a United Methodist and chief executive of the National Council of Churches, has contacted Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., about meeting with the delegation.
"The ecumenical delegation from the National Council of Churches of the Philippines will be in the United States to speak on behalf of more than 800 persons killed in the Philippines since 2001," Edgar said in his letter to Boxer.
"The number of political assassinations, I am told, far surpasses all twelve years of the renowned Marcos dictatorship. Targeted in the killings are journalists, lawyers, community leaders, pastors and even the former Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, an Anglican-related church."
As noted in the council's resolution, political killings are on the rise in the Southeast Asian nation. "According to the churches in the Philippines, in the history of their country there has never been such a high incidence of clergy killings. There are indications of government complicity in these killings, which seem to be confirmed by the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of this violence."
Edgar told United Methodist News Service that the religious delegation has a two-part agenda. "The first is to tell the people in the Philippines that the U.S. government cares," he said. The second part "is to kick the system in Washington" for a serious response.
Because the U.S. government is friendly with the Philippine military, it can demand that abuses be stopped, Edgar said.
A report into allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines said there is evidence to show that military commanders were responsible for "allowing, tolerating and even encouraging" such killings, according to Ecumenical News International.
Pressure from the international community, along with public outcry, led President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint a commission in August 2006 to probe more than 800 political killings since 2001, ENI reported.
The 86-page document was completed in January, but the Arroyo government did not release the report until Feb. 22 after an appeal was made by United Nations human rights special rapporteur Philip Alston.
"A basic responsibility of governments is to protect its people," the NCC resolution declared. "The Philippine government has failed to do so. It is now up to the international community to intervene on behalf of the Philippine people."
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: http://umns.umc.org