Statement from National Council of Churches in the Philippines
“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Isaiah 58:10
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines is deeply concerned about the two-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon. We are worried that greater vulnerabilities will surface that will put the poor majority into further suffering - hunger, paranoia, and the socio-psychological effects of quarantine. Things that could have been prevented by a well-planned and timely response.
The provision of food was the most evident difficulty that was observable during the first three weeks of ECQ. While we laud the provision of DSWD’s Social Amelioration Fund for the poor and the support to the affected workers from DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program, misinformation, incoherence of data, and the lack of clear guidelines on the distribution have further delayed the already snail-paced and bureaucratic implementation of the emergency assistance.
We are also disturbed over the government’s militaristic approach and its fixation on arrests and imprisonment in a time of a public health crisis. More than twenty thousand have been arrested by the police and military from March 17 to April 5, even more than the number of COVID tests conducted to date. Arresting and putting them in crammed spaces defeats the purpose of social distancing. The remarks “Shoot them dead” and “No mercy” coming from the current administration has turned this crisis into a spectacle of persecution of the poor. The United Nations pointed out that “a state of emergency, or any other security measures, should be guided by human rights principles and should not, in any circumstances, be an excuse to quash dissent.”
We also say again our plea to the government to release, on humanitarian grounds, the sick, elderly, and the prisoners of conscience who have been wrongfully incarcerated because of their political beliefs, especially the pregnant women and nursing mothers. The 394% congestion rate in our detention facilities poses grave, potential and unmanageable consequences should a single detainee be infected. It is our hope that the government will heed the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently address the catastrophic risk.
In the light of the extended ECQ, the NCCP reiterate its call for a more prompt, efficient, and relevant implementation of service delivery - that is transparent and free from politicking - to ensure the well-being of the people. It is imperative that aside from the containment of the spread of COVID-19, which is also contingent on effective mass testing, the vulnerable people are provided with what they need in order for them to stay at home in these critical times. The government must expedite the process of the distribution of additional food and cash assistance as the situation of millions of vulnerable families might worsen under the extended lockdown. Moreover, the government must have a more comprehensive and strategic plan that will address the public health concern and socio-economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this time of Lent, we pray for courage and strength for the suffering Filipino people. As we face this pandemic together, may our remembrance of the suffering of Christ move us to act in loving service and care for the least among us. Jesus’ statement is terse yet potent, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) We urge our churches to unceasingly pray and act in solidarity with the poor and demonstrate Christ-like compassion and witness in these critical times, “so that they may know that we are Christians by our love.”
09 April 2020
Rev. Felipe B. Ehican, Jr.
The Rt. Rev. Joel O. Porlares
Dra. Gay B. Manondon
Ms. Ma. Kay Catherine F. Almario
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza
(For reference, kindly contact NCCP Media Liaison Patricia Mungcal at 0915-118-7393.)