HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH/BREAKING NEWS
May 28, 2007 – 4:55pm
Activist pastor Berlin Guerrero was abducted just outside the local United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) chapel in Biñan, Laguna (35 kms. away from Manila) at 6 p.m. after a Sunday worship service on May 27. According to a statement by the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), Guerrero’s wife and children were shocked as armed men attacked and pointed guns at them as their father was forcibly taken to an L-300 van with the plate covered with paper.
Guerrero’s abduction happened exactly a year after another UCCP member and Bayan Muna (People First) regional projects officer Noli Capulong, was gunned down in Calamba, Laguna (52 kms. away from Manila) on May 27, 2006.
“It appears that Pastor Berlin’s abductors have learned their lesson from the case of Jonas Burgos – they did not want us to trace the vehicle to the military,” PCPR stated.
Since there was no known enemy of Berlin, church people suspected the abduction was allegedly the work of the military. “No one but the armed forces of this corrupt government have openly labeled social activists and human rights defenders, including activist church members, as enemies of the state and thus, targets for political persecution,” PCPR stated.
Guerrero is a theology student of the Union Theological Seminary, an active member of the Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (Ecumenical Center for Development) and former staff of the UCCP National Office. Aside from his ecumenical affairs, PCPR also said that his involvement in Bayan Muna and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Southern Tagalog apparently made him a target of political repression. In the late 1970s, Guerrero was elected the founding chair of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)-Southern Tagalog, leading the campus-based “mosquito press” that exposed the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship.
“Despite international condemnation on the killings and enforced disappearances, the abduction of Pastor Berlin demonstrates the arrogance of the Arroyo government in continuing its policy of repression,” PCPR stated.
Berlin is the 197th victim of abduction under the Arroyo administration. More than 20 activist pastors and lay members of the churches have been victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo government, which, said PCPR, “resorts to virtual martial rule to suppress dissent over its flagrant corruption and human rights violations.”
Members of the UCCP and ecumenical friends in the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) have held a prayer vigil and noise barrage at the UCCP Compound in Quezon Ave. today to denounce Guerrero’s abduction.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, author of a bill outlawing forced disappearances, called on the Arroyo government to “immediately surface Berlin, and turn him over to his family, ministry and colleagues.”
“The Arroyo government must protect all citizens, regardless of political beliefs,” Ocampo said. “Its security forces must not harm or kill its perceived political opponents. President Arroyo is duty-bound to order the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) to do everything so that Berlin and other desaparecidos are found alive, and see to it that the abductors are punished.”
As of this afternoon, according to Bayan Muna public information officer Anthony Ian Cruz, Guerrero has been able to call up his relatives and inform them that he is in the custody of the PNP at Camp Pantaleon in Imus, Cavite.(Bulatlat.com)