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Church worker in UN reveals continuing rights violations in the PH

GENEVA, Switzerland–A protestant church worker revealed continuing human rights violations in the Philippines under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government at the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in this city.

National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) program secretary for Faith, Witness and Service Mervin Sol Toquero reported before the international body that there had been 223 drug-related killings since July 2022, the start of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration.

“There is very minimal accountability for perpetrators since the time of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Toquero said.

Toquero said they are alarmed that human rights defenders, including church people and humanitarian workers, are also targeted under the country’s anti-terrorism and related laws.

He cited the case of United Methodist Church minister Glofie Baluntong who had been “falsely accused” of attempted murder as well as charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

He also mentioned the case of NCCP staff member and land and environment defender Peti Enriquez who has been charged for alleged violations of the International Humanitarian Law.

The Philippine government mission was absent at the Council session when Toquero spoke,

Toquero appealed to the UNHRC to call on the Philippine government to enact the Human Rights Defenders Bill pending before the Philippine Congress.

The Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives has recently approved the measure for the third time in two decades but is yet to be approved by its plenary and the Senate.

Toquero also asked the UN to call on the Philippine government to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act “as it endangers human rights defenders.” 

“Relatedly, we ask this Council to continue urging the Philippine Government to cooperate with the ICC (International Criminal Court) as this would provide viable accountability mechanisms and combat impunity,” Toquero said.

The Philippine UPR Watch is participating in the ongoing 52nd Regular Session of the UN HRC’s adoptions of the recommendations made during the 4th UPR on the Philippines last November.

The Philippine government is expected to accept 215 of the 289 recommendations by UN member states, choosing however to reject substantial proposals such as rejoining the International Criminal Court, putting a stop to red-tagging and repeal of laws that are “weaponized” against rights defenders, church workers, journalists such as the Anti-Terrorism Act and Libel/Cyber-Libel.

The NCCP is a co-convenor of the Philippine UPR Watch. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Protestants’ Lenten call to Duterte: Care and compassion, not bullets

The country’s biggest group of Protestant churches urged President Rodrigo Duterte to feel care and compassion for the poor affected by his government’s island-wide lockdown due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In its Lenten call to the president, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) said that the pandemic is a health crisis and that Duterte’s threat to arrest and shoot the desperate and hungry is uncalled for.

“Callous remarks and threats are not what are needed right now, especially as Holy Week is fast approaching. What is needed is food,” NCCP General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza said.

The group of the Philippines’ mainline Protestant churches was reacting to Duterte’s surprise televised address Wednesday when he threatened he will order his police to shoot rioters.

Alam mo, we are ready for you. Gulo o barilan o patayan. I will not hesitate [to order] my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you,” Duterte said. (Disorder, gunfight or killings.)

“My orders are, sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” Duterte added. (To the police, military and the village officials, that if there is disorder and there is resistance and your lives are put in danger, shoot them dead.)

“Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo. Ah ‘yung libing, akin ‘yan. Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi itong gobyerno na ito hindi inutil,” the president also said. (Do you understand? Dead. If there is disorder, I might as well bury you all. The burial is on me. Do not test the government, because this government is not inutile.)

Duterte was reacting to urban poor residents in Quezon City who were asking for food assistance after being put out of work since the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown started in March 15.

Officers of the Philippine National Police swooped down on the gathering and arrested 21 of the residents they allege refused to return to their hovels inside Sitio San Roque.

The residents later told reporters they were waiting for the food aid package they were promised by some local and national officials who were present in the area.

Later reports also clarified that the residents were not conducting a protest rally.

The NCCP said it is saddened and appalled with Duterte’s treatment of the people’s growing unrest brought by hunger amid the lockdown.

“The order of the President to ‘shoot those causing riot’ is sending a message that the government lacks genuine concern for our poor sisters and brothers who are growing desperate every day from hunger,” Marigza said.

Marigza added that it takes extreme conditions like hunger for people to brave the threat of Covid-19 and it was not for lack of discipline or being uncooperative.

“The people of San Roque simply need to survive. Going out in the streets is their desperate measure to call out the government that they are hungry. But instead of listening to their demands, they were met with violence and some were even arrested,” the prelate explained.

“What happened in San Roque is a painful proof that it is the poor who always suffer in any crisis such as now. The incident shows that enhanced community quarantine, without proper economic support to those severely affected, will not work,” Marigza added.

 Marigza said the residents of San Roque, located across NCPP’s headquarters along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, had long been struggling on a daily basis and deprived of basic social services even before the pandemic.

Originally part of a massive park project when Quezon City was created as the Philippines’ new capital during the American Commonwealth period, the area became a resettlement destination for victims of demolitions in Manila and Pasay cities.

Demolitions of the residents’ houses started when developments for a new Quezon City Business District in the area commenced. Remaining residents in Sitio San Roque refused relocation sites they described as “danger-prone areas” such as those in Rodriguez, Rizal.

“How do we want them to respond to a government measure that will make their already difficult lives even much harder?” Marigza asked.

The NCCP leader also raised concern over the government’s “fixation on arrests and imprisonment” in a time of a public health crisis.

He pointed out reports that more than 17,000 people arrested while there are around only 3,000 who were tested for COVID 19.

“Mass testing and a systematic distribution of food and other assistance are imperative right now. Again, our Lenten call, test more people and help the poor, do not arrest or shoot them,” Marigza said.

The country’s biggest group of Protestant churches urged President Rodrigo Duterte to feel care and compassion for the poor affected by his government’s island-wide lockdown due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In its Lenten call to the president, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) said that the pandemic is a health crisis and that Duterte’s threat to arrest and shoot the desperate and hungry is uncalled for.

“Callous remarks and threats are not what are needed right now, especially as Holy Week is fast approaching. What is needed is food,” NCPP General Secretary said Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza.

The group of the Philippines’ mainline Protestant churches was reacting to Duterte’s surprise televised address Wednesday when he threatened he will order his police to shoot rioters.

Alam mo, we are ready for you. Gulo o barilan o patayan. I will not hesitate [to order] my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you,” Duterte said. (Disorder, gunfight or killings.)

“My orders are, sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” Duterte added. (To the police, military and the village officials, that if there is disorder and there is resistance and your lives are put in danger, shoot them dead.)

“Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo. Ah ‘yung libing, akin ‘yan. Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi itong gobyerno na ito hindi inutil,” the president also said. (Do you understand? Dead. If there is disorder, I might as well bury you all. The burial is on me. Do not test the government, because this government is not inutile.)

Duterte was reacting to urban poor residents in Quezon City who were asking for food assistance after being put out of work since the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown started in March 15.

Officers of the Philippine National Police swooped down on the gathering and arrested 21 of the residents they allege refused to return to their hovels inside Sitio San Roque.

The residents later told reporters they were waiting for the food aid package they were promised by some local and national officials who were present in the area.

Later reports also clarified that the residents were not conducting a protest rally.

The NCCP said it is saddened and appalled with Duterte’s treatment of the people’s growing unrest brought by hunger amid the lockdown.

“The order of the President to ‘shoot those causing riot’ is sending a message that the government lacks genuine concern for our poor sisters and brothers who are growing desperate every day from hunger,” Marigza said.

Marigza added that it takes extreme conditions like hunger for people to brave the threat of Covid-19 and it was not for lack of discipline or being uncooperative.

“The people of San Roque simply need to survive. Going out in the streets is their desperate measure to call out the government that they are hungry. But instead of listening to their demands, they were met with violence and some were even arrested,” the prelate explained.

“What happened in San Roque is a painful proof that it is the poor who always suffer in any crisis such as now. The incident shows that enhanced community quarantine, without proper economic support to those severely affected, will not work,” Marigza added.

 Marigza said the residents of San Roque, located across NCPP’s headquarters along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, had long been struggling on a daily basis and deprived of basic social services even before the pandemic.

Originally part of a massive park project when Quezon City was created as the Philippines’ new capital during the American Commonwealth period, the area became a resettlement destination for victims of demolitions in Manila and Pasay cities.

Demolitions of the residents’ houses started when developments for a new Quezon City Business District in the area commenced. Remaining residents in Sitio San Roque refused relocation sites they described as “danger-prone areas” such as those in Rodriguez, Rizal.

“How do we want them to respond to a government measure that will make their already difficult lives even much harder?” Marigza asked.

The NCCP leader also raised concern over the government’s “fixation on arrests and imprisonment” in a time of a public health crisis.

He pointed out reports that more than 17,000 people arrested while there are around only 3,000 who were tested for COVID 19.

“Mass testing and a systematic distribution of food and other assistance are imperative right now. Again, our Lenten call, test more people and help the poor, do not arrest or shoot them,” Marigza said.

The mass arrest and Duterte’s speech made the hashtag #OustDuterte the top trend on Twitter for more than 24 hours since Wednesday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Progressives pay tribute to pro-poor bishop

Progressive groups and leaders paid tribute to United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Elmer Bolocon who died from a lingering illness last week.

In their eulogies, activists recalled how the late prelate opened his church to the poor of Tondo District.

They also recalled how Bishop Bolocon worked hard for peace even in his later years.

Bishop Bolocon is one of the outspoken UCCP Bishops who struggled against social injustices under various administrations, from Marcos to the current Duterte government. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun) Read more