On the Harassment of Church People and Human Rights Defenders in Davao City

TO DO JUSTICE, TO LOVE KINDNESS, AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?(Micah 6: 8 NRSV)

Until this very day, the excesses of the past regime are still festering in our system. The most recent indication was the issuance of an arrest warrant by RTC Branch 10, Davao City against 14 identified leaders of militant groups including a nun, a pastor and a son of a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), allegedly for kidnapping and illegal detention related to the scuffle between Lumad evacuees and the police at the UCCP Haran in Davao City last year, as instigated by North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco. We wonder why this case was re-filed by the Department of Justice when it was already dismissed last September 2015 by the Davao City Prosecutor’s office for insufficiency of evidence. This appears as mere harassment and intimidation against the church and the human rights defenders, contrary to the actions of the Davao City government as ordered by former Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to assist and help the Lumad evacuees. The UN Special Rapporteur Dr. Chaloka Beyani attested in his statement, “Let me be absolutely clear, the indigenous persons in Davao are not victims of human trafficking.”

Even worse is the obvious effort to despoil and smear the integrity of our church people and human rights defenders and put their lives in danger by posting unsigned banners and “wanted” posters in public places around Davao City.

As incumbent Bishops of UCCP, we deplore in the strongest possible terms all these acts of harassment committed against our church people and against peace advocates and human rights defenders. In keeping with the call of His Excellency President Rodrigo R. Duterte for change, all these abhorrent acts of persecution MUST STOP NOW!

Stop harassing the Lumads!

Stop harassing people and innocent civilians!

Stop harassing the UCCP and human rights defenders!

Respect Human Rights!

If change is to be real, genuine and lasting, it must permeate in all levels of government. It must be felt and experienced in places where hopelessness looms, in communities where suffering, anguish and bereavement are the daily ordeals of marginalized and deprived people, and where justice and peace remain as obscure dreams.

We call on our constituents to remain vigilant and prayerful even amidst critical times such as these.

We therefore appeal to the government authorities especially the Department of Justice to drop the charges and act swiftly and justly on the apparent harassment against human rights defenders, peace advocates and church people exercising their prophetic ministry.

The UCCP INCUMBENT BISHOPS

July 6, 2016

For downloadable copy of this statement, just click on the link: Haran_Wanted

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