United Methodists support an investigation into abuses in the Philippines

The United Methodists add their voice to the renewed call for an independent investigation by the United Nations and the international community into human rights violations in the Philippines.

Three INVESTIGATE PH reports support United Methodist support and long-standing commitment to the Filipino people and indigenous communities in the Philippines, said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Secretary General of the General Board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.

The National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists (NAFAUM) – which represents Philippine congregations and ministries across the United States and Canada – also supported the work of INVESTIGATE PH.

Henry-Crowe was one of 10 INVESTIGATE PH commissioners to take part in four online hearings in July and August 2021. She said she had heard dozens of disturbing stories from religious leaders, educators, lawyers and young people about the government’s actions. from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Churches and religious groups advocating for poor and indigenous peoples are among those directly attacked, Henry-Crowe said. Indigenous groups persecuted include the Lumades, some of whom are United Methodists.

From the southern Philippines, the Lumadi were caught in the middle of a fight between government soldiers and armed rebels. In the fall of 2020, for example, 26 Lumad families who were members of the United Methodist Church of Beho Omor were among 58 families who had to leave their homes and seek shelter at the evacuation site due to fighting.

The Philippine government has closed 215 Lumad schools, affecting the education of 10,000 students, Henry-Crowe said.

“President Duterte’s ‘whole nation’ strategy against critics – in the name of stopping the communist armed conflict – included attacks on the education system and teachers, as evidenced by the ongoing closure of Lumad schools, including school seizures, child arrests and government attacks on teachers and universities. “, she said.

The government has also used “red labeling” as part of a tactic used against those who oppose its policies.

“Red marking denotes people with whom the government disagrees as a threat to society, using it as a justification for violating their civil and human rights,” Henry-Crowe explained. “Church leaders and groups in the Philippines are among those marked in red.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, in which the United Methodists play an active role, joined forces with the Rise Up for Life and for Rights in an oral statement on 7 October to the UN Human Rights Council. The statement was presented through the World Council of Churches during the regular session of the debate at the 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council.

Rise Up challenged Duterte’s claims to the UN about his government’s civil rights responsibilities and reiterated his call for the Council to conduct an “independent investigation into widespread and systematic killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines.”

A new report by Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the Council noted continued human rights violations and a lack of accountability for those violations and killings of the Philippine people, Bachelet said she was also “deeply concerned” about continued reports of red markings .

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa recently received international recognition for reporting on corruption and human rights violations in the Philippines when she and Russian journalist Dimitri A. Muratov were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

The eighth, 18th woman to receive the award, told Ressa for the New York Times that by selecting two journalists, the Nobel Committee showed the world the dangers of today’s journalism. The Philippine government has filed 10 arrest warrants against her, and seven legal cases are still pending.

INVESTIGATE PH’s final report announced that the suffering of people in the Philippines is in line with the policy of President Duterte, who took office in July 2016, worse than the suffering of Marcos ’dictatorship“ Landlessness, unemployment and poverty have spread and extrajudicial killings of civilians by the state forces in these five and a half years have long surpassed those during the sixteen years of the infamous Marcos dictatorship, ”the report concludes. “Women, children and indigenous peoples have suffered particularly. Human collective rights to self-determination, development and peace have been severely violated. ”

Human rights violations are a constant issue in the Philippines. In its 2016 Book of Resolutions, the General Conference — the highest legislative body of the United Methodist Church — spoke out against previous Philippine governments that allowed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations “to go unpunished as perpetrators remain free and exempt. from justice, while the victims are belittled and rejected as subversive and do not deserve any form of justice … (Resolution 6117). ”

Resolution 6118 also expressed concern about militarization in the Philippines and described as “very alarming” “the increasingly militarized approach of the Philippine and US governments to economic development and the humanitarian crisis in the Philippines.”

The United Methodist Church has long supported the right to self-determination of national minorities in the Philippines and called for formal peace talks to unite the country “through a broad alliance of patriotic and progressive forces and a clean and fair coalition government for true national minorities.” independence and democracy against any foreign domination or control and against servitude (Resolution 6138). ”

NAFAUM condemned the “serious escalation of human rights violations” under Duterte and expressed concern that bishops and leaders of the United Methodists in the Philippines were targeted “for their views on social justice and acts in the name of Christ’s gospel for the poor and marginalized.”

The Association coordinates with the General Board of the Church Society and other groups to strengthen advocacy and solidarity and denomination in the Philippines.

It is important to continue to speak out against current human rights violations in the Philippines, Henry-Crowe said.

“The prophetic voice of the church is essential to its functioning as a body of faith,” she noted. “We argue that this work in the public sphere has autonomy, knowing that in the Philippines, as in the United States, freedom of religion and belief are protected human rights.”

Bloom is the interim director for communications of the General Board of the Church and Society.

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