UCCP Council of Bishops march to Court of Appeals,

Demand justice and freedom for Pastor Berlin Guerrero

 

August 20, 2008

 

 

 

"We believe that God is just and that our lives are in God's hands; so we are praying for the freedom of Pastor Berlin Guerrero. However, we are also very concerned that with the recent corruption allegations in the Court of Appeals, Pastor Berlin may not get a fair hearing on his pending case. We are here to remind justices and citizens alike that we remain vigilant in Pastor Berlin's case and that all are accountable to God for our conduct."

                                                                                          --- UCCP General Secretary Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua.

 

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Photos courtesy of UCCP
           

 

August 20, 2008
Press Release

UCCP Council of Bishops Make Pilgrimage to Court of Appeals
To Demand Justice and Freedom for Pastor Berlin Guerrero,
Especially in Light of Allegations of Corruption and Bribery in Court

Today the Council of Bishops of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) is leading a Pilgrimage Walk for Justice and Freedom of Pastor Berlin Guerrero to the Court of Appeals. A prayer vigil-action in front of the Court of Appeals will be conducted.

"We believe that God is just and that our lives are in God's hands; so we are praying for the freedom of Pastor Berlin Guerrero. However, we are also very concerned that with the recent corruption allegations in the Court of Appeals, Pastor Berlin may not get a fair hearing on his pending case. We are here to remind justices and citizens alike that we remain vigilant in Pastor Berlin's case and that all are accountable to God for our conduct," shares UCCP General Secretary Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua.

Pastor Berlin Guerrero has been detained for almost one year and three months on a trumped-up charge of murder. He was abducted on Sunday, May 27, 2007 as he left his church in Malaban, Binan Laguna. Blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten, he was brought to a so-called "safe house" where he was tortured and accused of being an officer of the communist party in Cavite. After this torture, Pastor Berlin was brought to the PNP Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite. Only when his lawyer arrived was a faxed copy of a warrant of arrest shown; it was later ascertained from the PNP that elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces handed Pastor Berlin to them at the camp. Pastor Berlin Guerrero remains under detention and is currently in the Cavite Provincial Jail awaiting a decision on the quashal (throwing-out) of the trumped-up murder charge against him.

The UCCP Council of Bishops is also delivering a letter to the Court of Appeals asking for a speedy trial. After the Regional Trial Court of Justice Matias M. Garcia II in Bacoor, Cavite denied a Motion to Quash the murder charge, the UCCP, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Union Theological Seminary, the Kilosbayan Foundation and Bantay Katarungan Foundation took the case to the Supreme Court.

"Due to the lack of probable cause in the murder case and the human rights that have been violated, we joined together to bring the matter directly to the Supreme Court for the sake of Pastor Berlin Guerrero. Senator Jovito R. Salonga joined as lead counsel. We all feel that this case is a worthy struggle; the human and civil rights of all Filipino people are at stake," asserts Bishop Pascua.

The case was before the Supreme Court for ten months, after which they remanded it to the Court of Appeals on the basis that facts must be adduced and that the Supreme Court is not a "trier of facts." It is currently under Justice Romeo Barza, 12th Division.

"We are dismayed that the process is taking so long. Every day that Pastor Berlin is detained is another day that justice is denied to him. We understand in new ways what languishing in jail is—one of our vibrant church workers is doing his best to minister to other prisoners in the jail, but he could be more productive if he were given his due freedom. His family and church members are unduly suffering his absence as well. Justice delayed is justice denied," comments Bishop Dulce Pia Rose.

"And now we have to worry about the corruption scandal allegations facing the Court of Appeals and the potential distraction or implications this may have on Pastor Berlin's case. It is very hard to attain justice, but we will do our utmost to keep the attention of the court on his case. Our prayer for Pastor Berlin's freedom must be matched by our best actions to appeal for justice," adds Bishop Jessie Suarez.

 

     
     
     

If the Court of Appeals will decide to dismiss the Information for murder against Pastor Berlin Guerrero, he can be immediately released. This is the hope and prayer of the Council of Bishops of the UCCP. However, if the Court of Appeals does not decide in favor of Pastor Berlin he will stand trial on the trumped-up murder charge.

 

"It will be very disturbing seeing a pastor, who has committed his life to God in the service of God's people, standing trial for murder. But, it's really not so different than the story of Jesus and His disciples in the Bible. We hope and pray the case of murder will be quashed and that justice will prevail," says Bishop Pascua. ###

Reference: Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, General Secretary
09178057167

           
           

 

Letter of the Bishops to the Court of Appeals

 

August 20, 2008
 

Hon. Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr.
Presiding Judge
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.

Sincerely yours,

Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua
General Secretary

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 Emeritus
 

Bishop Isaias Bingtan
Bishop Emeritus

Bishop Osias Jaim
Bishop Emeritus

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 Emeritus

Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon
Bishop Emeritus

Bishop Erme R. Camba
Bishop Emeritus

Bishop Gabriel Garol
Bishop Emeritus

 

 

Free Berlin Movement
Case Update

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 torture.

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 Berlin.

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 Information.

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 file COMMENT.

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.
 

 

 
 

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