Oct. 11, 2005
Groups urge Philippines president to probe killings of activists, clergy
by Maurice Malanes
Ecumenical News International
MANILA - Church and development groups from around the world are calling on Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to investigate the killings of more than 30 human-rights activists, including clergy members, since the first of the year.
"We are deeply concerned at the killings of 34 activists in the Philippines so far in the year 2005," the groups said in Oct. 7 letters to President Arroyo and to the Philippine army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Generoso S. Senga. The letters were released by the Geneva-based group, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
More than 30 people signed the letters, including representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Franciscans International and the Young Women's Christian Association. They demanded "immediate and impartial investigations into all recent extra-judicial executions."
The signatories cited three recent killings alleged to have been committed by agents of the military: Diosdado Fortuna was shot in the back on Sept. 22 in Laguna Province, south of Manila; the Rev. Raul Domingo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines died on Sept. 4, two weeks after being shot in Puerto Princesa in the island of Palawan; and Norman Bocar was shot in the head on Sept. 1 in Borongan, Eastern Samar, in central Philippines.
"We mourn each of those killed and we deplore the ongoing violence and killing," the signatories said. "We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the Filipino people to achieve their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights."
The letter referred to the report of a delegation sent to the Philippines in July by the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia. That report observed that increasing numbers of activists, including church workers, were being murdered, and spoke of intimidation, illegal detention and torture of peasants working for rich landlords.
The Oct. 7 letter urges the Arroyo government to promote agrarian reforms and give rural people greater access to the country's natural resources. It also calls for the repeal of legislation, including the Mining Act of 1995, that it claims "puts corporate profit before the interests of people and the environment."
Sarah Ford of U.S.-based Lutheran World Relief said: "We are concerned with the increasing threats to religious leaders and civil society representatives struggling for their land, property, and cultural rights. We call upon the government of the Philippines to work with churches and NGO leaders to bring an end to the violence."