Posted: November 24, 2006
United Church of Canada APPEAL
CPA ACTION ALERTS & UPDATES:
United Church of Canada
The United Church of Canada was outraged to learn that five members and staff of The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), and the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) were assassinated in May and June 2006. We condemn the institutions and individuals that are responsible for these unspeakable atrocities. We call on the Canadian government and the United Nations to take strong steps to end the violence.
Five United Church partners have been killed in a recent six-week period. Local and international observes suggest the killers are linked with the police and military. The victims were involved in human rights, justice, and development work.
• On May 9, 2006, Pastor Jemias Tinambacan was killed by four men riding motorcycles in Oroquieta City. His wife, Malou, survived and identified one of the assailants as a military agent. Pastor Tinambacan was a member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) and Executive Director of UCCP’s local development program for indigenous peoples.
• On May 16, Jose Doton of UCCP in Pangasinan was assassinated by two men riding on a motorcycle. His brother, Cancio, was injured. Mr. Doton was president of a farmers’ organization that opposed the San Roque Dam. The dam inundated farmlands, displaced indigenous families, and dispossessed small local miners of their livelihood. United Church volunteer Flo Morson and General Council staff Choice Okoro and Bern Jagunos, who were visiting partners in the Philippines, were scheduled to meet with him on May 18. they attended his wake instead.
• On May 19, Pastor Andy Pawikan as abduted, tortured, and killed in Nueva Ecija. Police alleged that Pastor Andy was killed during an encounter between insurgent and military troops, but witnesses assert that he was abducted on his way home from Sunday worship.
• On May 27, Noli Capulong was driving to a prayer meeting for his ill brothers when men in motorcycles fatally shot him in Calamba, Laguna. Noli was the Conference Chair of the Christian Witness and Service Committee of the UCCP, former staff of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (UCCP), and spokesperson for an environmental movement.
• On June 8, Rafael Markus Bangit, coordinator of the Tribal Elders Desk of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, was shot during a bus stop in Pangasinan. An innocent bystander, Gloria Casuga, was also killed. Bangit was under close surveillance by unidentified men prior to his killing.
The alarming human rights situation is revealed in these figures: 705 political killings in the last five years; 98 politically motivated killings in the first half of 2006. Twenty-one of the victims of politically motivated killings since 2001 were church workers.
Global partners of The United Church of Canada
are directly affected:
Why Are They Being Killed?
Under the pretext of “the war on terror,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is escalating the war against communist and Muslim rebel groups to a level unseen since the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. The war is being waged against civilians, not only armed groups.
Victims include human rights advocates, trade unionists, peasant leaders, church workers, lawyers, parliamentarians, and journalists. State and military officials have made them targets of attack by linking them or their organization to armed groups and calling then “enemies of the state.” Military documents such as Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch) reveal that a campaign to silence people’s organizations, social activists, and civilians critical of the government is part of the counter-insurgency war strategy.
The increased level of violence targeted at civilians comes at a time of growing progressive movements and grass roots resistance to globalization. Harassment of people’s organizations weakens the broad movement that challenges the current government, which is facing a serious economic and political crisis.
Why Act Now?
No one should be killed for expressing dissent or be punished for alleged crimes without due process of the law. Basic human rights, including the right to life and freedom of expression, are guaranteed by United Nations conventions and treaties. As a signatory to these treaties and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippine government must be held accountable to its commitment to defend these rights.
United Church partners fear they face even greater risks after President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the military on June 18, 2006, to step up the war and crush the communist insurgency in two years, allocating one billion pesos ($21.5 million) to boost the military’s capacity for the war. Our Christian mission to promote life calls us to speak against this gross violation of life and to accompany our partners in their costly advocacy for human rights and justice. The voice of those who defend life and speak for justice must not be silenced.
The Canadian Government’s Response
Despite the killings, the Canadian government maintains that the Philippines leads in democracy and human rights relative to other countries in the region. According to officials at the Canadian embassy in Manila, Canada is addressing the problem through programs to build effective mechanisms such as human rights education for police and military officers, and through bilateral discussions on human rights cases with the Philippine government. Canada is ostensibly taking a “behind closed doors” approach in order not to jeopardize its long-term human rights work.
Call for Impartial Investigation
Please send letters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Hon. Louise Arbour, the Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ambassador Luis Alonso de Alba, and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Peter MacKay, calling for strong action by the UN and Canada to protect the right of life of citizens in the Philippines.
Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba
Hon. Peter G. MacKay
Please send copies of your letters to:
Mr. Peter Sutherland
Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua
Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes
Hon. Bill Graham
Hon. Jack Layton
Hon. Gilles Duceppe