Pastoral Ecumenical Delegation Visit to the Philippines
July 14-21, 2005
July 14-21, 2005
Prominent church leaders from the Philippines, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, accompanied by thirteen partners from Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and the United States, visited Eastern Visayas, Hacienda Luisita and Mindanao July 14-21, 2005. Together they heard and saw for themselves the degree of human rights violations and demonstrated a strong international solidarity with the victims and families of victims. This pastoral delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) visited the Philippines at the invitation of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
The delegation is an expression of Christians and churches sharing their pain and support for each other as members of one body. The scripture calls on them to be prophetic and to promote justice and human dignity. The delegation is acutely aware of the fact that the majority of the Filipino people have yet to enjoy life in all its fullness. Poverty, political repression and other human rights violations are the daily plight of the majority of the 85 million Filipinos.
The NCCP, the Filipino churches, human rights organizations and other people’s movements have been monitoring the recent spate of killings of church workers, human rights defenders, journalists, justice advocates and others in the Philippines. They have urgently appealed to the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) to put an immediate end to the pattern of killings that, for many Filipinos, are reminiscent of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. The WCC wrote on March 31, 2005 to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, calling on her to set up an independent investigation into the atrocities being committed and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The CCA wrote to the President on May 23, 2005 raising similar concerns.
The pastoral delegation listened to many moving testimonies from the victims themselves and from their families. Members of the clergy of the Philippine Independent Church and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have been murdered. Hundreds of others especially the indigenous communities have been terrorized, brutalized and maimed by security forces. Large scale human rights violations including police and military intimidation, illegal detention, and torture of peasants working on the farms of rich landlords are being perpetrated. These patterns of gross and systematic human rights violations were further clarified and confirmed by a wide cross-section of people’s movements, human rights organizations, local religious leaders, councilors and members of Congress.
Once again, as in the past, churches and church workers serving the poor as Christ commanded, as well as community leaders and organizations are being labeled as “subversives.” Once again, counterinsurgency against the New People’s Army is being advanced by the officialdom as an excuse for atrocities and bombings.
Among the root causes of the current turmoil in the country are: the inadequacies of state institutions such as the judiciary, inequitable distribution of resources which traps many Filipinos in abject poverty, and the monopoly of transnational corporations and other foreign interests in resource exploitation. These shortcomings remain pervasive and the promise of full enjoyment of human rights is still far distant.
At the meetings with the Executive Secretary of the Office of the President, Mr. Eduardo Ermita, and with Commissioner Wilhem D. Soriano of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, the pastoral delegation expressed serious concern at the deterioration in the observance of human rights. It raised issues regarding the safeguarding of the people’s civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, the need for the resumption of peace talks with the NDF, and the lack of the government’s response to the reports and recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights.
The key recommendations of the delegation include:
- an immediate and impartial investigation of all recent extrajudicial executions
- revision of the government’s military strategy for resolving the insurgency to insure the safety of non-combatants and to avoid indiscriminate destruction of property
- resumption of the stalled peace talks between the Government of the Republic of Philippines and the National Democratic Front
- assertion of civilian control of the military which must be held accountable for its actions and which must be in accordance with international humanitarian law
- promotion of agrarian and land rights reform which preserves the integrity of creation and honors the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples
- reform of the judicial system to guarantee its independence and integrity
- repeal of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act
- cessation of the practice by the government and military of labeling those who work for justice and for the poor as subversives or communists
- request to the WCC to bring the delegation’s concerns to the attention of the appropriate UN instrumentalities and mechanisms
- continuation of an ecumenical ministry of presence with the victims of human rights violations; this includes information sharing about the situation, education, advocacy for just economic policies and rendering humanitarian assistance;
The report of the pastoral delegation will be circulated widely by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches. The recommendations of the delegation will be transmitted to these ecumenical bodies and the delegation members’ own churches. They will continue to collaborate on all followup activities.
In conclusion, we the members of the Pastoral Ecumenical Delegation wish to say to the suffering people of the Philippines:
- we admire your persistence, your courage and your hope in the face of grave injustices
- we are one in Christ with you
- we will stand with you, we will advocate for you, and
- we pray God’s peace and justice for you.