The lawmakers cited, as example, the May 27 abduction of Philippine Pastor Berlin Guerrero, who was beaten by his abductors until he gave them the names of his family, parishioners, friends and the password to his computer. The abductors reportedly then replaced Guerrero’s computer documents with incriminating documentation connecting Guerrero to the underground left.
Guerrero remains a prisoner of the Cavite Provincial Police. Reports received by U.S. congressional offices say Guerrero has been tortured while reports from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines state that the Philippine National Police (PNP) have announced that Philippine Navy intelligence units were responsible for the abduction.
Church leaders applaud House members’ action
A coalition of U.S. and Philippine-American faith leaders and human rights advocates applauded the unprecedented action of their House members.
The Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines said the Congressional letter represents a significant step forward in advancing the awareness of U.S. policymakers about this six-year surge of violence against progressive leaders in civil society. But it added that more needs to be done to ensure that U.S. dollars are not funding Philippine state security forces involved in human rights violations because this violates U.S. law, which provides that the U.S. will not fund military forces involved in human rights violations.
The Ecumenical Advocacy Network represents a growing coalition of American and Filipino-American church leaders and human rights advocates throughout the United States, many of whom have been participants in the international Ecumenical Advocacy Day’s human rights conference held annually in Washington. That conference, held in March of this year, featured special plenary and workshop presentations focused on the Philippine crisis, including first-person testimonies by individuals subjected to the violence.
Echoing the ecumenical advocacy group’s concerns, Rev. Peter Monkres a United Church of Christ pastor in Grand Marias, Minnesota, says, “We wish to thank all members of Congress who signed the letter of concern for taking this stand. As faith-based constituents, we are particularly troubled by the knowledge that so many of the killings are credibly alleged to involve Philippine security forces, and that those security forces are supported by U.S. dollars.”
“That these crimes continue to occur without meaningful investigation and prosecution,” Monkres said, “is alarming. We are pleased that our Congressmen have heard our anguish about the killings and made a commitment to be vigilant in overseeing the situation.”
T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA’s Asia and Pacific region, said, “Amnesty is extremely pleased about the strong message that’s being sent to President Arroyo by bipartisan members of Congress. We urge the Philippine government not to ignore the reality of extrajudicial executions and to take prompt action to arrest and prosecute security forces and others involved in these killings.
“We also urge them,” Kumar said, “to have policies in place to prevent such killings from happening in the future.”
Advocates from U.S. churches are also calling upon their members of Congress to bring a strong and urgent voice to the extrajudicial killings targeting Philippine faith and human rights leaders.
Robin Broad, a Professor of International Development at American University in Washington, D.C. and an expert on the Philippines having written two books and numerous articles on the Philippines, said the congressional members’ letter “is a historic moment. Not even during the dark days of the Marcos Dictatorship did this large a number of members of the U.S. Congress –representing both parties — deliver a signed letter to the President of the Philippines to protest human rights abuses.”