Protestant Church sues Arroyo for killings, human rights abuses

“Something is indeed terribly wrong when pastors and church workers are killed, arrested and detained or go missing while they are teaching people to know, defend and fight for their rights,” Rev. Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Church of Christ in the Philippines (NCCP), said.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – While the Aquino government dillydallies in running after former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her family, and officials of her administration, different groups have filed cases against the former president and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials for plunder and human rights violations. Now, it is a church that decided to do so.

With more than 18 of its members killed, one disappeared, three ambushed and wounded and four arrested, detained and tortured, the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) filed today a damage suit against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

UCCP general secretary Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, relatives of five slain UCCP pastors and members and Pastor Berlin Guerrero filed the civil case against Arroyo before the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

“Gloria Arroyo and the military agents under her command must be held accountable for the injustice they have exacted on the Church and the Filipino people,” Marigza said. “We have preponderance of evidence pointing to the military establishment [as the perpetrators]. Arroyo then was the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Being the highest official of the AFP then, we are suing Arroyo under the principle of command responsibility.”

Marigza cited the case of Guerrero who was abducted just outside the local UCCP chapel in Biñan, Laguna after a Sunday worship service on May 27, 2007. The UCCP bishop said that records show that members of Naval Intelligence Security Forces were the ones who took Guerrero to a safehouse and tortured him before he was turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s provincial headquarters at Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite.

Relatives of slain UCCP pastors and members are joined by bishops in their quest for justice.(Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ bulatlat.com)

Not one of the perpetrators of the crimes has been prosecuted, said lawyer Emilio Capulong.

Relatives of UCCP members Joel Baclao, Pastor Edison Lapuz, Pastor Raul Domingo, Pastor Andy Pawican and Noel Capulong are among the complainants.

Baclao was shot dead by a gunman just outside his home in Daraga, Albay, Bicol on Nov. 10, 2004. Baclao was the coordinator of Andurog-Bicol, a disaster relief program of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and the regional coordinator of the Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR).

Lapuz had just come from his father-in-law’s burial in San Isidro, Leyte on May 12, 2005 when he was shot dead by two unidentified men.

Domingo, a United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) pastor and secretary-general of the human rights group Karapatan in Palawan, was killed by suspected military agents last Aug. 20, 2005.

Pawican was carrying his months-old child when he was accosted by soldiers in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija on May 21. 2006. A few hours later, gunshots were heard. Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB-PA) took the child to Pawican’s wife.

Capulong was shot dead while driving his owner-type jeepney in Parian village, Calamba on May 27, 2006 by bonnet-wearing men riding in motorcycles.

“Something is indeed terribly wrong when pastors and church workers are killed, arrested and detained or go missing while they are teaching people to know, defend and fight for their rights,” Rev. Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Church of Christ in the Philippines (NCCP), said.

Counterinsurgency

Marigza blamed Oplan Bantay Laya, Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program, for the attacks on church workers.

He cited the 20-minute powerpoint presentation released by the AFP titled “Knowing your Enemy” that listed UCCP and other church organizations as front groups of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). “This, we think, paved the way for our members and pastors to be victims [of human rights violations,” Marigza said.

UCCP general secretary Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza says they are suing former President Arroyo under the principle of command responsibility.(Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ bulatlat.com)

The complaint states: “The extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, and the physical and psychological tortures inflicted by the military establishment were all carried out pursuant to the policies, framework and ideology laid down in Oplan Bantay Laya, conceived and implemented by Defendant Arroyo in her administration’s counterinsurgency campaign.”

Emma Lapuz, wife of UCCP Pastor Edison Lapuz, said she believes that the military was behind the killing of her husband. “He was branded as an enemy of the state for defending the defenseless.”

“We are not enemies of the state. We are God’s servants,” Bishop Dulce Pia Rose said during a gathering after the filing of complaint. “The lives of Rev. Edison Lapuz and of our pastors and members are symbols of their faithfulness to follow Christ.”

The complaint also cites the killings of other UCCP members Isaias Manano Jr., Juancho Sanchez, Vicente Olea, Avenio Sungit, Alfredo Davis, Junico Halem, Nestor Arinque, Pastor Jemias Tinambacan, Madonna Castillo, Rei Mon Guran, Renato Pacaide, Pastor Felomino Catambis and Ronel Raguing.

The UCCP also recorded frustrated murder against Alden Ambida, Evelyn Davis, Pastor Marilou Tinambacan and Pastor Billy Austin and torture and detention of Ruel Marcial, Rodel Palting, and Rodolfo Canja.

“Their families are still in a state of trauma,” lawyer Capulong said.

Cry for justice

Rev. Elsie Plotado, sister of Baclao said: “As a church worker, it is difficult to carry out the mission of the Church. When I say ‘Peace be with you’ to the congregation, I ask myself ‘Am I at peace?’ It has been seven years since my brother was killed and still we don’t see justice… Today, I regain hope as my colleagues in the Church exert efforts so that justice and truth will be attained.”

“Five years has passed since we lost our father. Five years and still, justice remains elusive for all of us. Investigations were conducted by authorities but none has been brought to court. Mahirap nga namang lumabas sa imbestigasyon na ang may pakana ay ang estado,” Jopeth Domingo, son of Pastor Domingo, said during a press conference before the filing of the complaint.

“How does it feel to be a victim of abduction, torture and detention for more than a year for crimes one did not commit? How do we feel if the perpetrators are not brought to the court and those responsible still run for office? For a victim and survivor like me, this is a slap on my face,” Guerrero said. “The filing of this case has been my prayer.”

The UCCP seeks moral damages worth P1 million ($23,000) and P500,000 ( $11,627) for each family of the victims.

This is the second civil case filed against Arroyo for human rights violations. In February, members of the Morong 43 filed also filed a damage suit against the former president. In May, mothers of missing activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan also filed criminal charges against military officers. A criminal case has also been filed against top AFP officials for the abduction of Jonas Burgos. ()

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22 Comments - Write a Comment

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  5. Proud po ako sa UCCP kasi matapang na lumalaban para sa mga inaapi at tagapagtangol laban sa corruption at mapanirang uri sa tao at kalikasan… Ang Dios ang Laging gabay at sa kanya ianaalay ang ministeryo . Mabuhay ang UCCP.. To God Be The Glory…

  6. Para sa mga mapag-aping pamahalaan:
    “Administer justice every morning;
    And deliver the person who has been
    robbed from the power of his oppressor,
    That My wrath may not go forth like fire
    And burn with none to extinguish it,
    Because of the evil of their deeds. (Jeremiah 21:12)
    Indeed, as with borther Salman,may the fire of God
    engulfed GMA and her minions in Hell. Huwag sanang
    mabulok ang kaluluwa ni Gloria sa walang hanggang
    apoy sa empierno.

    As for the UCCP, I wish you all the best in your
    prophetic ministry.

    Starting today, please count me as your prospective
    convert.
    See you soon in one of the UCCP pews.

  7. Hurrayyy! for the UCCP, with the family of victims of extra judicial killings who filed case against the previous Arroyo Administration. Saludo ako sa katapangan ninyo! Truth and Justice will prevail in the end! Kaya… malaki ang pananalig ko na panalo tayo! The God of Justice and righteousness is on our side! Mabuhay ang matapang na UCCP!!!

  8. · Edit

    I have high regards of UCCP Pastors. They are genuine servants of Allah advocating and standing for the rights
    of all people,including the Bangsamoro
    Long live UCCP.

  9. · Edit

    I have high regards of UCCP Pastors. They are genuine servants of Allah advocating and standing for the rights
    of all people,including the Bangsamoro. To hell with GMA and her blood thisty Generals.Oh,Allah,let Thy fire consumed them.

    Long live UCCP!

  10. Thank you United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) for taking ex-president Arroyo to court over her command reponsibility for crimes and atrocities under her regime. She (PGM Arroyo) doesn’t realize it yet that UCCP is actually doing her a big favor. Because if she doesn’t repent now, then the Big Judge in the Sky may not be so forgiving, afterall, as the scriptures say: Settle your disputes now, before you face Me! (spoken as a post modern marxist, hehehe) Seriously, this is really great, UCCP!

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