Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. –Amos 5:14-15a
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines is once again raising it prophetic voice in view of the recent cases of political repression of the Church workers. As Bishops of the Church, we are saddened and alarmed at the arrest and incarceration of Rev. Nathaniel Valiente from Bohol Conference and Pastor Benjie Gomez from District Conference of Northern Zamboanga. In 2019, Pastor Jimmy Teves and some church members from North Negros Conference were illegally arrested and detained, even until now. Aside from them Church Workers from South Bicol Conference, Pastor Dan San Andres was arrested and detained but recently released, while Pastor Daniel Balucio is still detention for trump-up charges.
Furthermore, there are at least 196 victims of red tagging and image-shaming of church leaders. Aside from this, not less than 226 cases of human rights violations have been recorded by our church since 2016. In this number there are those who were extrajudicially killed like Pastor Perfecto Hoyle, Rev. Ernesto “Tata” Estrella, and Mr. Rico Antanoy.
We deplore the State’s repression and curtailment of the right to life, self-expression and civil liberties of Church people. The State has the moral responsibility to protect the life of its citizens, but it operates counter to its constitutional mandate. It should have been instituting social justice, ensure equal access to social services and provision of decent jobs for people to live decent lives.
We have witnessed how the State through the present dispensation systematically stifled people’s right to health and security especially when the Covid-19 Pandemic impacted the nation since March 2020. Millions of families who live on subsistence wages or living in a hand-to-mouth existence were out of job or lose their means of livelihood. This reality has not prevented the Church from providing support to the people in distress because of the lock down of villages, towns and cities. In an economically depressed situation, the State impeded people’s rights to gainful employment. These are abominable acts of the present Duterte government.
In these challenging times the Church stands with the biblical prophetic witness and echoes the clamor of prophet Amos in 5: 12-15a:
For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.
Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Moreover, we emphasize the Church’s principle on respect and protection of human rights based in the UCCP Constitution and By-Laws, Article II, Section 11, which states:
In accordance with the biblical understanding that all persons are created in the image of God, the Church affirms and upholds the inviolability of the rights of persons as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements on human rights, the international covenants on economic, social and cultural rights and on civil and political rights, . . .
Therefore, we call on the State institutions: Stop repression and persecution of the Church, defund NTF ELCAC, release funds for economic support or ayuda to those adversely affected by the Pandemic and make provide free vaccination available to the people.
We call on the State authorities to let justice flow like a river and never-ending stream by freeing from illegal detention Pastors Benjie Gomez, Jimmy Teves, Daniel Balucio and Rev. Nathaniel “Dodo” Valiente! Hands off on our church leaders!
We call on the Church Workers and the laity: Be on guard, strengthen our local churches, equip ourselves and our members with the armor of prophetic faith and in organized manner appropriately respond to the challenges of defending human rights and civil liberties of the people.
We call on the entire UCCP faith-communities to unite and speak out to break the silence. Let us STAND AGAINST STATE REPRESSION, PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS and UPHOLD OUR PROPHETIC FAITH!
THE UCCP COUNCIL OF BISHOPS
July 14, 2021
Bishop Melzar D. Labuntog
Bishop Joseph G. Agpaoa
North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Emergencio D. Padillo
Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Joel E. Tendero
South Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Jerome C. Baris
East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Feliciana P. Tenchavez
West Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Ligaya F. San Francisco
Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Hamuel G. Tequis
Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Arturo R. Asi
Bishop Jezer E. Bertoldo
Bishop Isaias L. Bingtan
Bishop Erme R. Camba
Bishop Ebenezer C. Camino
Bishop Constante D. Claro
Bishop Gabriel A. Garol
Bishop Hilario M. Gomez, Jr.
Bishop Marino I. Inong
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza
Bishop Roel P. Mendoza
Bishop Jaime R. Moriles
Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua
Bishop Dulce Pia-Rose
Bishop Elorde M. Sambat
Bishop Anacleto G. Serafica
Bishop Jessie S. Suarez
Bishop Rizalino Q. Taganas
Bishop Modesto D. Villasanta
Please click this link for the downloadable file, LET US STAND AGAINST STATE REPRESSION AND UPHOLD HUMAN RIGHTS