Letter of the Bishops to the Court of
August 20, 2008
Hon. Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr.
Court of Appeals
Maria Y Orosa Street
Ermita, 1000 Manila
To the Honorable Justices of the Court of Appeals of the Philippines:
We, the Council of Bishops of the United Church of Christ in the
Philippines, appeal for a speedy resolution of the case of Pastor Berlin
Guerrero. It has been almost one year and three months that Pastor Berlin
Guerrero has been detained on a trumped-up charge of murder. On May 27,
2007, Pastor Berlin was abducted while leaving his local church UCCP
Malaban, Binan, Laguna. He was disappeared and tortured, seemingly because
he was suspected of being an officer of the Communist Party. During this
time of heavy torture he was heavily beaten and brought close to death by
suffocation with plastic bags; Pastor Berlin sincerely believed he would
die. Most strikingly, his torture included no mention of this trumped-up
murder charge. We are certain that he is detained for political rather
than criminal reasons.
Pastor Berlin has continued pastoral ministry in the Cavite Provincial
Jail; but, he is suffering under these conditions. Falsely accused, he is
victimized daily with separation from his family, the physical,
psychological and spiritual stress of confinement, and the general denial
of his liberty. We pray that the judicial handling of his case can be
conducted in the shortest possible time and we appeal for a speedy
resolution of the matter before you. As representatives of the Church, we
urge you to prioritize this case as testament to the pursuit of truth and
justice in the Philippines.
Pastor Berlin V. Guerrero is one amongst many Filipinos who have been
abducted, tortured, disappeared and killed under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Administration. We enjoin your efforts to bring justice to the many
victims of Human Rights Violations. Our prayers are with you as you are
challenged to address these injustices. We also include the Court of
Appeals in our prayers amidst the recent allegations of corruption; we
pray that the court will be a place of righteousness. As we bishops appeal
for a speedy resolution of the case of Pastor Berlin, we also join in the
efforts to bring peace based on justice to the Filipino people.
Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua
Bishop Jessie S. Suarez
South Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Dulce P. Rose
East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Anacleto Serafica
Acting Bishop for Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Isaias Bingtan
Bishop Osias Jaim
Bishop Marino I. Inong
North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Ebenezer C. Camino
West Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Rizalino Taganas
Acting Bishop for Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon
Bishop Erme R. Camba
Bishop Gabriel Garol
Free Berlin Movement
We appeal for your support for the release of Pastor Berlin Guerrero from
the Cavite Provincial Jail. Pastor Berlin has been detained for more than
one year on a trumped-up charge of murder. On June 10, 2008, the Supreme
Court remanded our motion for Pastor Berlin's immediate release to the
Court of Appeals on the grounds that the Supreme Court is not the "trier
of facts." As the evidence against Pastor Berlin is fabricated, it
naturally appears very weak as well. Our lawyers have contended the case
should be quashed (or thrown out without even going to trial) as there is
not probable cause/sufficient evidence for the case to be filed in the
first place. We are waiting again for the action of the court.
Here is a brief timeline/update of the highlights of the legal process:
May 27, 2007 Pastor Berlin, his wife and children were on a tricycle
departing from the UCCP Malaban local church in Binan, Laguna. The
tricycle was cut off by an unmarked van. Men with guns surrounded the
family. As they pulled Pastor Berlin into the van, the family yelled for
them to show a warrant. The bag of Mylene (Berlin's wife) was also grabbed
as it contained a camera with a picture of an alleged 'intelligence agent'
who had attended the church for a few weeks.
Pastor Berlin was interrogated and tortured at an unknown location. The
questions hurled at him centered on accusations that Berlin was an officer
of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Cavite Province. They also
forced him to give the password to his email account and interrogated him
on all people with whom he worked within the UCCP, ecumenical circles, and
the people's movement. They tortured him psychologically and physically.
Several times Pastor Berlin passed out from suffocation. He thought he
would be killed.
May 28, 2007 After around 18 hours disappeared, Pastor Berlin was brought
to Philippine National Police Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite. Only
after his captors had turned him over to the police was he instructed to
remove his blindfold and was eventually allowed to call his family to say
that he was alive. When Atty. Emilio Capulong and a UCCP team arrived on
the scene in the early evening, the PNP gave fax copies of two warrants of
arrest. One warrant executed in 1992 was for a charge of murder. The
second executed in 1988 was for a charge of inciting to sedition; the
second warrant had been served to Pastor Berlin in 1992 and he was
released after posting bail. No file has been located on the charge of
inciting to sedition.
May 29, 2007 The Commission on Human Rights and the Health Action for
Human Rights conducted medical evaluations of Pastor Berlin. They
documented his contusions, abrasions, and lacerations. Both reports
concluded the Pastor Berlin has been subjected to ill-treatment and
May 31, 2007 UCCP General Secretary Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua held a
dialogue with PNP Chief General Oscar Calderon, where General Calderon
confirmed that he had ascertained the unit of the Naval Intelligence
Security Forces that took Berlin into custody. He agreed to ask the
commanding officer to identify the suspects of the torture of Pastor
June 14, 2007 Protestant Lawyers' League of the Philippines made an Urgent
Motion for the Release of the Accused with a Complimentary Prayer to Quash
the Warrant of Arrest and to Dismiss the Information at the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite on the charge of murder.
August 2, 2007 Presiding Judge Matias M. Garcia II denied the motion
(basically contending that a lack of probable cause is not basis for to
Quash the Information).
August 24, 2007 Senator Jovito R. Salonga of Kilosbayan joined as counsel
for Pastor Berlin and filed at the Supreme Court a Petition for
Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court
for grave abuse of discretion of Judge Matias M. Garcia. This petition
sought to nullify the denial of the motion on August 2, 2007, to prohibit
from proceeding any further with the case at the Regional Trial Court, to
order the dismissal of the Information for murder against Pastor Berlin
Guerrero, and his immediate release from detention.
September 4, 2007 The Supreme Court ordered a COMMENT from Judge Matias M.
Garcia II and the Solicitor General within 10 days of their receipt of the
Supreme Court order.
October 3, 2007 Judge Matias M. Garcia II filed his COMMENT basically
repeating that lack of probable cause is not a basis for Quashal of the
September 28, 2007 Solicitor General filed motion for a thirty (30) day
extension to file COMMENT.
October 30, 2007 Solicitor General filed motion of another thirty (30) day
extensions to file COMMENT.
November 29, 2007 Solicitor General filed motion for a third extension to
December 10, 2007 Solicitor General files COMMENT (more than three months
after the Supreme Court Order for COMMENT).
January 15, 2008 Supreme Court requires the attorneys of Pastor Berlin to
file REPLY to the COMMENT of the Solicitor General.
March 17, 2008 REPLY filed by attorneys of Pastor Berlin re-stating that
there is lack of probable cause in the case of murder. They also filed an
Urgent Motion for Resolution of the Petition.
June 10, 2008 Supreme Court REMANDS case to Court of Appeals on the basis
that the Supreme Court is not the "trier of facts." For more information,
refer to new article, <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080708-147236/SC-tells-appeals-court-to-hear-pastors-plea>.
July 25, 2008 Hon. Romeo Barza, 12th Division, Court of Appeals is
assigned the case of Pastor Berlin Guerrero
Current We await notification from the Court of Appeals on their next
action. We pray that the case will not be allowed to be delayed for months
and months; we anticipate that a hearing will be called by the Court of
Appeals to determine the merit and facts of the case.