Churches Protest Killings Christian Leaders And Activists In Philippines

Monday, November 27, 2006

By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Reporter in Manila

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife) -- An Asian human rights team has condemned Philippines government for what it says is "its utter failure" to look into the killings of Christian leaders, rights activists, journalists and others by security forces and prosecute those involved, BosNewsLife established Friday, November 24.

The Hong Kong Mission for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines said the government "is at best grossly failing to protect its citizens, and at worst may be complicit in an orchestrated campaign of targeted assassination".

While the military and police sat they are searching for rebels and terrorists, Christian leaders and advocacy groups say the security forces often target political opponents.

In a report the group said, "Many witnesses or victims' family members believe the state is engaged in a campaign to eliminate politically 'leftist' groups and individuals in the Philippines." The report was released through the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).


It comes at a time when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo defended her government's evidence on human rights after foreign business groups too expressed concerns over several alleged political killings.

The leftist human rights group Karapatan documented 764 deaths of activists and Christian leaders since Arroyo came to power in 2001. In Washington the Episcopal Church in the United States expressed concerns over the situation, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Bureau in Manila learned.

Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries of the Episcopal Church, Rev. Fred Vergara, of Asian American Ministries, and Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, spoke of “human rights violations” in talks at the Philippine Embassy and the State Department in Washington D.C.


"We told Ambassador Willy Gaa at the Philippine Embassy that we were there as a courtesy to let him know of the deep concern among US denominations over the deplorable number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, " Grieves said. "We are supporting our partner churches there as they prepare to document these human rights violations," he added.

Ambassador Gaa reportedly promised the group that he will “relay their concerns to” President Gloria Macamagal-Arroyo. He urged the group to submit its Philippine Human Rights Report to the Melo Commission, the body appointed by the Philippine government to investigate the killings.

Vergara said that the "spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines included the outspoken human rights advocate, former Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento." Ramento was found stabbed to death at his rectory in the Parish of San Sebastian of Tarlac City, on the morning of October 3. He had been an outspoken critic of the government and a leading advocate for peace and human rights in the country.


Within days of Ramento’s murder, another clergy member of the Philippine Independent Church also reportedly received a death threat via short messaging service on his mobile phone.

Ramento was a member of the committee that drafted the renewal of the terms of the concordat of full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Philippine Independent Church, which was signed during the Episcopal Church’s 75th General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006, church observers said.

His death was the latest “in a string of killings of Christian leaders” in the Philippines, the Episcopal Church said. This month, Roman Catholic nuns in the Philippines filed a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Philippines’ security forces who raided their convent in Butuan City.

Representatives of the Good Shepherd Sisters order appeared before CHR November 6, saying the Philippine National Police was involved in "gross human rights violations," when they raided the convent November 1, reportedly in search of a rebel leader who allegedly was seeking refuge inside.

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