By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and Regional Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Cordillera (RECCORD) welcome the move of their counterpart, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States (NCCCUSA) to lobby at the US congress and ensure that the military aid will not exacerbate the human rights violations in the Philippines.
“This is a welcome move,” said Fr. Dave Tabooy, RECCORD secretary-general, in an interview adding, “That is one way of pressuring the Philippine government to adhere to human rights laws and instruments.”
Tabooy’s counterpart in the national, NCCP secretary-general Fr. Rex Reyes Jr. appreciated the effort saying that the NCCCUSA had supported their call “to stop the killings and other human rights violation in the Philippines.”
“Your letter of concern to the US Congress in 2007 asking them to put human rights preconditions to the US military aid to the Philippines was one of the effective pressures from the international community resulting in a decrease in the number of killings in 2008,” said Reyes, an Anglican priest from Sagada, Mountain Province.
Last year, the NCCCUSA was able to lobby for the US government $30 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) be issued to the Philippines on three conditions: 1. the Philippine government implement the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to address the human rights violations; 2. prosecute those in the military and other responsible for the HRVs; and 3. end the vilification of legal civil society organizations by the military.
In a letter submitted this month by NCCCUSA Secretary-General Michael Kinnamon to the US congress, he said that the leaders and members of faith-based, labor, and human rights organizations concerned with the ongoing human rights crisis faced by their friends and colleagues in the Philippines’ civil society, express their support and appreciation for the attention and efforts by members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to ensure that their military aid to the Philippines is not exacerbating an already tragic situation.
Less EJK but HRVs on the rise
Reyes added that there is a downtrend in the number of extra-judicial killings but pointed out the reality that the killings, disappearances and other rights violations continue with impunity.
“Many cases of extra-judicial killings remain unexplained, only few have been prosecuted and there has been no conviction of military personnel involved so far,” explained Reyes in his letter to the NCCCUSA.
He added that the most recent cause for alarm was the filing of fabricated charges for crimes of murder, arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion against 72 people in the Southern Tagalog region including church people, lawyers, human rights workers and leaders of people’s organizations.
“Included in the list of those charged in Southern Tagalog are two of our workers: Pastor Edwin Egar of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and Pastor Mel Abesamis of the United Methodist Church (UMC),” added Reyes.
Thus, your continuing accompaniment to our struggle for human rights protection in the Philippines is still very much needed, added Reyes letter to NCCCUSA. # www.nordis.net