Justice and Advocacy: Philippines Human Rights
The church maintains full communion partnership with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), nurtured through Global Ministries and the various relationships created between Conference, Regions and local churches with UCCP bodies. Human rights abuses by Philippines government and military against civilians and civil society groups, including the church, remains a priority concern for our advocacy work.
We work with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and advocacy partners like the human rights organization Karapatan in the Philippines to raise awareness and speak out on the human rights abuses suffered by the UCCP and its members and communities.
The UCC General Synod 26 (2007) Resolution of Witness, A Call for Solidarity with the Persecuted in the Philippines, and an End to Extra-Judicial Killings and other Human Rights Violations, calls for solidarity with the Philippines, including advocating with more responsible U.S. policy toward the Philippines. The resolution commends the General Minister and President “to encourage Wider Church Ministries [WCM], Justice and Witness Ministries [JWM], Conferences, and Local Churches to advocate that military appropriations be conditional upon demonstrated promotion of human rights;” and resolves the following actions be taken by national church ministries:
Wider Church Ministries
- to encourage mission partnerships between Conferences and the UCCP;
- to maintain supportive communication with the UCCP;
- to provide and disseminate information on the current state of the Philippines to Local Churches & Conferences;” and
Justice & Witness Ministries
- to call upon U.S. government agencies and elected representatives to examine the links between U.S. funds and the violence and repression in the Philippines;
- to identify, through Justice and Peace Network communications, legislators who could be called upon to provide leadership in addressing policy and funding issues pertinent to the violations of human rights in the Philippines;
- to provide information and resources to raise awareness in Local Churches;”
In support of the resolution staff produce timely action alerts on the Philippines to members of the Justice and Peace Action Network (JPANet) and through Global Ministries updates, engage in advocacy visits and submit written testimony to Congress to address US military support for the Philippines in light of human rights abuses, have met with representatives of the Government of the Philippines to discuss extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses perpetuated against the UCCP, and lead workshops and support initiatives andcampaigns regarding Philippines advocacy concerns. Notable events include:
- Case of Berlin Guerrero: Global Ministries invited formerly imprisoned UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero and his wife to attend the 27th General Synod (2009) in Grand Rapids, but U.S. visas were denied for the two based on unsubstantiated claims they represented security concerns. The UCC and Global Ministries protested, asking for an explanation and review of this decision, but communications were ignored by the U.S. State Department. The UCC had advocated for the release and investigation of the unjust capture and torture of Pastor Guerrero by the government of the Philippines, and supported both his testimony of his case to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, and testimony of ecumenical advocates about such extrajudicial abductions and abuse to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
- Maguindanao Massacre: UCC and Disciples leaders expressed statements of support to the UCCP and National Council of Churches in the Philippines and joined the Asia-Pacific Forum in an ecumenical statement decrying the November 23, 2009 massacre of civilians in the Maguindanao Province of the Philippines.
- Philippines Elections Monitoring: In May 2010 two UCC pastors, Rev. Kathryn Schreiber of California and Rev. Kathy Fox of Texas, participated as human rights monitors covering the presidential elections in the Philippines. Rev. Schreiber proceeded to report on the experience and the hopes of partners for human rights reforms under the new Philippines government at the national convocation of the Pacific Islander Asian American Ministries (PAAM) in August 2010.
- The Morong 43: Global Ministries advocacy has also focused on the illegal imprisonment of the “Morong 43”—a group of health workers arrested in February 2010 on suspicion of being communist rebels, but whose case was dismissed by new Philippines President Aquino in December 2010.
- 2011 Human Rights Tour: Global Ministries is supporting an itineration of former UCCP Bishop Eliezer Pascua to UCC and other U.S. churches in 2011 to speak about the ongoing human rights challenges of the Philippines partners.