The largest alliance of Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines has scored the government for the continuing impunity and nonenforcement of human rights in the country.
This developed as thousands of protesters held a rally on Mendiola to mark International Human Rights Day on Monday.
In a statement, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) noted that there were 132 cases of extrajudicial killings with “zero prosecution” in the present administration and that military officers charged or implicated in abductions or torture were instead promoted.
“International Human Rights Day in the Philippines is a saga of human rights that is ‘good on paper’ … it is one of continuing impunity and nonenforcement of human rights laws,” the church group stated Monday.
The NCCP members include the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, Apostolic Catholic Church, Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, United Methodist Church and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), among others.
The statement was signed by Rev. Ephraim Fajutagana, NCCP chairman and the Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and Fr. Rex Reyes Jr., NCCP general secretary.
“The recent promotion of military officers charged with abduction and torture, the unabated killing of indigenous peoples and environmental advocates and the vilification of activists speak volumes not of the state’s helplessness but of what Rep. Erin Tañada says is the ‘systematic inability to enforce human rights laws,’” said the church groups.
At a human rights forum last week hosted by the NCCP and the European Union, Raymond Manalo, a farmer who was allegedly abducted by the military in 2006, said killings and illegal arrests continued under the Aquino administration.
Manalo is a prosecution witness in the trial of two soldiers accused in the kidnapping of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Former Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, a primary accused in the case, has yet to be arrested even as President Aquino earlier doubled the reward for information leading to his arrest from P1 million to P2 million.
The NCCP also said there was no truth to declarations that there were no more political prisoners in the country “as those in detention have been charged with other offenses except political offenses.”
“In the unrelenting moves to deny the truth about the grave human rights situation in this country, the NCCP is equally relentless in its belief that justice is neither rhetoric nor media mileage. It is making perpetrators of human rights violations accountable for their transgressions,” it stressed.
At the Mendiola rally Monday, a militant lawmaker accused Mr. Aquino of “knocking out our economic and human rights.”
“Today we are disappointed, saddened and angry because of the knockout,” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño said. “Not just the knockout of Manny Pacquiao. But because under the Aquino administration, our human rights are being knocked out.”
Indigenous people from Mindanao sought justice for the killings of lumad leaders who opposed large-scale mining projects in the region during the Mendiola rally which was also attended by a contingent of labor and peasant leaders from Southern Tagalog.
Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez led the protesters in burning an effigy of a combined mining excavator and artillery tank topped by an effigy of Mr. Aquino that symbolized large-scale mining and militarization in peasant and indigenous people’s communities.
Enriquez accused Mr. Aquino not only of turning his back on his promise to give justice to the victims of human rights violations, but also of encouraging rights violations through the promotion of military generals known for their abuses.
“We condemn the continuing extrajudicial killings and the plunder of our resources that take away our rights, land and lives,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
She said that of the 129 victims of extrajudicial killings that the group had documented, 69 were farmers and 25 were indigenous peoples. Most of those killed were antimining activists and lumad leaders defending their lands and the environment against foreign mining firms.