Worldwide Christian Group Alarmed by Continuing Rights Violations in Philippines

“We saw and heard the heart-breaking stories of victims of human rights abuses and their family members. We saw and felt the pain of those who have lost loved ones by extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearance,” the nine-member delegation of the World Council of Churches said in a statement.


MANILA — An international delegation of church leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC) came to the country Dec. 1 and witnessed the continuing human rights violations under the Aquino administration.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide fellowship of 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories representing 560 million Christians. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland and has a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.

The visit is part of the WCC’s “Living Letters” where representatives from other countries make an organized visit to a given host country for a particular compelling reason. They were hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

Listen to the Rev. Dan Sandu of the Romanian Orthodox Church read the statement by the World Council of Churches about the human-rights violations in the Philippines. [flashvideo file= height=22 width=200 /]

“We saw and heard the heart-breaking stories of victims of human rights abuses and their family members. We saw and felt the pain of those who have lost loved ones by extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearance,” the nine-member delegation said in a statement.

A team visited the Morong 43 and had a dialogue with Secretary Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice while another team visited the workers of Hacienda Luisita. Before that, the delegates also talked with families of victims of human rights violations under both the Arroyo and Aquino presidencies.

The delegation of the World Council of Churches during a press conference on Saturday. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea /

The Morong 43 are the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal by about 300 combined elements of the police and military. Thirty-eight are now detained at Camp Bagong Diwa while five have remained under military custody. They started their hunger strike, Dec. 3 to pressure the government for their release.

“I have not seen any change,” Tony Waworuntu, former staff of the Christian Conference of Asia and a member of the delegation, said in a press conference, Dec. 4. Waworuntu first visited the Philippines in 2005 as part of the WCC delegation.

“I am disappointed to see that extrajudicial killings are still happening but I sincerely hope that it will stop,” said Rev. Tara Jewel Curlewis, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

The delegation also said they “saw and heard deep hopes that the President will keep his electoral promises to put an end to impunity with regard to extrajudicial killings, disappearances and abductions, implement genuine land reform, work toward reconciliation with justice and peace, and live up to his expressed commitment to give top priority to the peace negotiations.”

High Hopes on De Lima

The WCC delegates expressed high hopes on de Lima. “We saw, heard and rejoice in the resolve of… (Sec. de Lima) to have the charges against the 43 health workers withdrawn by December 10th, United Nations International Human Rights Day and if not by then, at least before Christmas,” said Rev. Dr. Dan Sandu of the Romanian Orthodox Church, reading from their unity statement.

“We also rejoice in her recognition of the existence of a culture of impunity that has resulted in extra-judicial killings and massive human rights violations, and her resolve to put an end to it. We affirm her belief that there is no inconsistency between human rights and justice; when you serve one, you?serve the other,” Sandu said.

The group joined the call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Morong 43.

Mardi Anette Tindal of the United Church of Canada said de Lima also spoke of a proposal to review all cases of extrajudicial killings. “She said that too few are being brought to justice,” Tindal said.

Hacienda Luisita

“The conditions of the farm workers at the Hacienda Luisita struck me,” Waworuntu said adding the distribution of land to the farm workers would make the Filipino people believe in Aquino’s promise of change.

The delegates called “for the immediate implementation of the decisions of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to distribute the land to the farmers.”

They also noted the presence of local and foreign military personnel in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of the country and said this poses a threat to the local communities. “We call upon the Philippine? Government to repeal the Visiting Forces Agreement and withdraw all military presence from civilian communities,” they said.??Actions

The group said they will send letters of concern to international bodies, the Philippine President, the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Curwelis said they would engage their churches and governments to raise the issue of human rights violations in the Philippines.

“I will return home inspired. There is strength of spirit in the people of the Philippines,” Tindal said.

“The will of God will prevail always. They [women of Morong 43] are fragile ladies but powerful. They did not meet us with despair, they encouraged us,” Sandu said.

Other members of the delegation include Vijula Aralanantham, Board Chairperson of Prison Fellowship International and Carmencita Karagdag, member of the WCC Central Committee. They are accompanied by WCC staff Segmenish Asfaw, Anastasia Dragan and Aneth Lwakatare. (

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  1. There are two types of law that we must follow and heed, namely: GOD’S law and the law of the land that lawmakers enacted so citizens of their respective countries must obey. For us Christians, our basic laws enumerated and defined on the Ten Commandments that the Almighty God handed down to Moses.

    The basic rule also applies in our daily living:”DON’T DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU DON’T WANT THEM DO UNTO YOU”.

    I certainly believed that all of us who believe in ONE GOD who created the world we live in that if we only practice and exercise loving and caring for our fellow human beings, all the natural resources that God provided us, we will live happily and contented here on Earth.

    Greed and power oftentimes contributed to the abuses of human rights. Wealth cannot be earn overnight by the wealthy without the help of the hired workers. They in turn should protect and care for the same people who made them famous and rich. The same rule applies to government leaders who were elected by the majority of the citizen, hoping to achieve a much better life from a leader whom they can rely on.

    From the time we learn how to read and write, our parents and our teachers in grade school guided us to do the right things. When we disobeyed and disregarded their orders, punishment ensued simply because we faulted.

    Same thing when we disobeyed God’s commandment, our soul suffers and our conscience dictates it. The only way we get healing is when we repent and ask God’s forgiveness.

    Many books had been written by famous authors, doctors, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, and other experts whose aim is to inspire us by contributing their time and talent, why waste it?

    God loves us so much. Let us share that love with one another every minute of the day. Do you sometimes say: PLEASE, THANK YOU, EXCUSE ME, MAY I HELP YOU, HOW ARE YOU, AND MOST OF ALL, GOD BLESS YOU.

    Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts. PEACE BE UNTO ALL OF YOU.

    Sincerely in God’s service,

    Bishop Jose de Guzman Villena, D.D., MNCC
    Oceanside, California

  2. Change will be effective when each individual wanting /needing a change in someone, be the first one to make the change even in his/own thoughts—-instead of judging others learn to appreciate what is good in others so that if everyone goes thru this same process, good would be evident as the quality multiplying instead as diminishing. This is a healthy way and the only progressive way of governance.

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