“No one can deny its major contributions to Christian unity, the promotion of God’s word and the proclamation of God’s reign.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Church leaders and lay people have expressed their utmost concern over the red-tagging of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a network of Christian churches in the country.
In a Congressional hearing on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization on November 5, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Major General Reuben Basiao named 18 groups as communist front organizations. These include the NCCP and other organizations providing relief and aid to victims of disasters.
“The life and work of NCCP is on record. It is an open book. No one can deny its major contributions to Christian unity, the promotion of God’s word and the proclamation of God’s reign,” said Bishop Rex Reyes of the Episcopal Church.
The red-tagging of the NCCP came in the heels of the widespread crackdown against activists. This began with simultaneous raids in Negros, and another raid in Tondo, Manila, which resulted in arrests of activists and unionists. There were also threats to conduct a so-called police “ocular inspection” in the offices of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Ibon Foundation.
“Indiscriminately labelling persons and organizations creates fear and danger. Such actions can pose security risks and threaten the lives of the labelled persons or that of the organizations’ staff and their families,” the convenors of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said in a statement.
Bishop Joel Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said the NCCP is not a communist front.
“Like PCEC, it is an organization of sincere men and women which longs to see Jesus Christ enthroned on a transformed and flourishing nation,” he added.
Apart from NCCP’s active humanitarian work, it has also consistently pushed for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Its compound has also hosted several fora during the early years of the Duterte administration, where the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines were moving at an unprecedented phase, especially where reforms on social and economic conditions were concerned.
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines chairperson Peter Murphy said the Philippine government “has badly mistaken the support of the NCCP for peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as some kind of violence. Instead you too should call for genuine re-opening of the peace process and an end to the terrible violence in the country.”
Partner churches alarmed
The NCCP’s compound in Quezon City is also home to several local and international church-based organizations.
In a statement, ACT Alliance, a global network of faith-based humanitarian network that holds office at the compound, stood by NCCP, saying that it is an active partner in carrying out humanitarian work in recent years such as during the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
Its general secretary Rudelmar Buena de Faria called on the Philippine government to remove the NCCP from the list “in view of its unverified nature and the security and operational threats it poses.”
International faith-based humanitarian group Christian Aid also stood with NCCP, saying that the “ministry of presence and compassionate service brings hope amidst disasters, which can help in communities’ faster recovery. It only aims to bring love and compassion in development work.”
Asia Pacific Forum, a regional network of Christian Churches, said the government, must ensure that the NCCP is fully exonerated “from these false charges and for their protection from any and all abuses by the government and its agents.”
Among the church groups who have issued statements to express their concerns are: California Pacific Philippine Task Force of the United Methodist Church, California-Nevada Philippine Solidarity Task Force (PSTF) of UMC, Iglesia Filipina Independiente – South Central Luzon, Kairos, Kasimbayan, Student Christian Movement – UPV, and the Union Theological Seminary.