Posted: November 24, 2006
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WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: Statement on Extrajudicial Killings in the Phils.


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The central committee adopted the following statement on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines:
Statement on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines

1. The Philippines has continued to suffer political turmoil since the mid-1980s when people power toppled the military dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. The present government headed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came into power in 2001 with promises of bringing about reform in the political and economic systems of the country. The legitimacy of the government’s election continues to be challenged, and under the pretexts of the “war on terror” and a new emphasis on internal national security, the Philippines has become more and more militarised, to an alarming degree. There are now many calls, including from the churches, for the President to relinquish office.

2. Sadly, the promises of reform have not been addressed, let alone fulfilled. The Philippines remains a country with stark divisions between the haves and the have-nots. Political power is still exercised by a ruling elite supported by the military. The so-called “war on terror” has served to strengthen the hold of the government and the military over the people, as development and military funding from overseas governments is provided in return for the government’s support of the “war on terror”. The longstanding communist insurgency is used by the government as an excuse for action against any persons and groups who seek to stand with and for the poor.

3. Since 2001 more than 740 people who have worked with and for the poor in the Philippines have been assassinated in extrajudicial killings. They include journalists, lawyers, leaders of people’s organizations, human rights activists and church workers. The killings have intensified since 2004. Twenty one church workers, including 9 pastors and priests, have been killed since 2001. Most of the attacks have been committed by unidentified men shooting from unmarked vehicles or motorcycles. Paramilitary groups armed by the military, and even members of the military and police, have been implicated in these killings. While a few suspects have been detained briefly, no charges have yet been issued in relation to these killings. All cases remain unsolved. The government has allowed these crimes to take place with impunity, and is failing in its statutory obligations to protect the right to life and to maintain the rule of law.

4. In 2005 the National Council of Churches in the Philippines invited the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia to send a delegation of church leaders to investigate the situation. Thirteen church leaders drawn from ten countries visited regions in the Eastern Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao, meeting with the families of those killed, with groups working for human rights, with church leaders, and with government representatives. The key recommendations of the delegation included:
• an immediate and impartial investigation of all recent extrajudicial executions;
• revision of the government's military strategy for resolving the insurgency to ensure 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 the 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 honours the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples;
• reform of the judicial system to guarantee its independence and integrity;
• cessation of the practice by the government and military of labelling those who work for justice and for the poor as subversives or communists.

5. Over the past 12 months the situation has worsened considerably. Extrajudicial killings have been happening at the rate of one every two days. The government has increased its military action against insurgents, resulting in an increase in the number of “civilian” deaths. The militarisation of the Philippines, and the fear of the people, are deepening.

6. While the Philippines government has recently announced a commission of inquiry into the extrajudicial killings, churches in the Philippines remain unconvinced of the seriousness of the inquiry. The churches seek an independent inquiry rather than one made up of government appointees. They propose that the Inquiry should be in the hands of a group of esteemed individuals from different walks of life such as church leaders, academicians, lawyers, legislators and leaders of peasants and workers.

7. The World Council of Churches central committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 30 August to 6 September 2006:

1. Condemns the extrajudicial killings being committed in the Philippines;
2. Expresses its condolences to the families of the victims of the killings, especially to the families of church workers, pastors and priests killed since 2001;
3. Affirms the Filipino churches and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines for their courageous work with and for the poor, in the face of violent opposition;
4. Thanks those churches and councils of churches in other parts of the world who are acting in solidarity with the churches of the Philippines, especially in Japan, Canada, the USA and Australia;
5. Assures the Filipino churches and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines of the ongoing support and solidarity of the World Council of Churches as they continue to give courageous witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of violent opposition;
6. Challenges the concept of a global war on terror as pretext for the violation of human rights in the Philippines;
7. Calls on the government of the Philippines to:
• disband “death squads”, private militias and paramilitary forces operating outside the official chain of government command;
• hold accountable any members of the military found to be involved in extrajudicial killings;
• instruct the military to cease listing churches and church workers as “enemies of the state”;
• reverse the national security policy of making no distinction between combatants and non-combatants within the current counter-insurgency campaign;
• establish a fully independent Commission of Inquiry into extrajudicial killings;
• invite the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to visit the Philippines.

8. Asks the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to take up the matter of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

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