Book Launching:

Let the Stones Cry Out

The Continuing Search for Justice

 

February 16, 2009

 

 

 
   
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Let the Stones Cry Out!
The Continuing Search for Justice
February 16, 2009

Since 2001, a human rights crisis has been obtaining in the Philippines.  Thousands of Filipinos including more than 900 victims of extra-judicial executions have been issuing a collective cry for justice. This collective cry was detailed in “Let the Stones Cry Out: An Ecumenical Report on Human Rights in the Philippines and A Call to Action” which the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) released in March 2007. The report was submitted before churches, governments and inter-government bodies in Canada, US and Switzerland.

In April and June 2008, the NCCP led the delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch to Geneva, Switzerland. It was during those periods when the Philippines was undergoing the Universal Periodic Review in the UN Human Rights Council.

Those efforts were unprecedented and helped in generating international pressure to Stop the Killings.

The Ecumenical Report and other stories of the churches’ efforts to announce and denounce the human rights situation in the country are chronicled in the book “Let the Stones Cry Out! The Continuing Search for Justice”.

Special Guest: Rev. Chris Fergusson, Representative to the United Nations of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches

Hon. Leila de Lima, Chair, Commission on Human Rights

Words of Solidarity

           

 
THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
On the Occasion of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines' Launch of the Book Entitled: “Let the Stones Cry Out: A Continuing Search For Justice”
Quezon City, Philippines
16 February 2009
 

Delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

Reverend Bishops, the members of the National Council of Churches, allies and friends in the cause of human rights, good morning.

Much has been said about the dividing line that separates the Church from the State. In an era of religious tolerance and diversity in a largely Catholic country such as ourselves, the secular government stands against a backdrop of sectarianism. It is in secularity that our government seems to draw its authority, its impartiality and ascendancy over all divisions of sectarianism that compose the full strata of a deeply religious people, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, the Filipino Nation. Much has been said of separating Church and State in the manner of governance – a securely secular Constitution and government, cut from a fabric of religiosity and faith, run by self-professed religious for the benefit of a religious people.

In analyzing this separation, we find a crucial common thread between any form of faith and the form of government that we have in place. Both represent the highest ideals held dearly by people. The faith in a supreme being or divine providence direct the faithful to emulation of the characteristics that define our religions – to be prayerful, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, to care for the needy, to respect one another, to be deliverers of peace and justice, and to be answerable to one higher being. Our allegiance to one Constitution and one country, ingrained in us through our National Anthem and the Panatang Makabayan, direct all Filipinos to love our flag, our Nation, to respect our parents, to live harmoniously with our countrymen and to be useful and industrious members of society.

The values have never been fundamentally different between the secular and sectarian. After all, nations and religious communities are composed of people. The values of people always rise to the surface in every aspect of our lives. While every child is shaped by the country or creed to which he or she is part of, in the greater scheme of things, every child who grows up, in community with others, eventually shapes the country or creed to which he or she is part of. The more we separate the Church and the State, the more that we find that the values are not only the same, but that they must remain the same.

Perhaps the reason that we, people from all walks of life, people who are typical of the communities that make up mankind, fight so hard for the cause of human rights and the ideals that are common to every man, woman and child is because these ideals permeate every structure we find ourselves in, be it secular or religious. In the face of the gravest of violations of our values, these deeply inculcated values rise to the surface to strengthen our resolve to do what is right and what is just.

The Ecumenical Report, as the authors have stated, is not just a depiction of the state of human rights, but a depiction of the incongruity between the values of the state and the church. It is not merely a clash of values, but a ghastly display of state-sponsored violence against the members of religious communities. And since the values that make up our state and our religions are the same, and the people who comprise them, the Filipino people, are the same, essentially violence committed by the state against the church is a violence committed against itself. Whoever these insidious forces maybe, they perpetrate a violence against themselves by committing vicious acts against their fellow man. They violate a social contract of the Filipino nation, a value system to which they themselves are part of. The commission of extralegal, enforced and arbitrary killings, and abductions inflicts a wound not only against the victims, but against all of us.

 



The call to action directed at the government, in the context of the Ecumenical Report, is not only a plea to compel our State to take drastic action against crimes of impunity. It is a call for the men and women in government to fall back in line, to return to values that define our society. It is a call to the government to take action that people everywhere, from the religious community, community organizations to human rights defenders, had already undertaken. We call on the government not to simply invent an intervention, but to uphold what we already know – the values upon which our freedom and democracy are founded upon.

Much has been said about the efforts of the government to curb crimes of impunity. There remains so much dissatisfaction in the outcomes of investigations. Many people remain missing, remain unvindicated. Many fathers and mothers still do not know where their children are held, or their fate. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, many colleagues remain without having attained justice.
 

But to understand the breadth of the violation against victims is to call all of us to action. If we have called out the government on these crimes, it is only because we have called on ourselves to address the same. The efforts of the religious communities and civil society, of every upstanding citizen, must continue – not because we cannot rely on the government – but because we have no choice but to uphold the values that comprise our faith and our society.

As the letter of Father Rex Reyes reads, this book that we launch today is “our small contribution in the furtherance of the quest for justice for all victims of human rights violations.” I ask you now – can there be anything more than our small contribution to a quest that is incumbent on all of us to undertake? Justice, as lofty and abstract as it may be, is for everyone and we all play a part in upholding it. It is not attained by some grandiose gesture, by government or otherwise. It is attained through the small efforts of everyone, crossing boundaries of secularism and sectarianism, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. The quest for justice, the quest to quell extralegal killings, the quest to find the missing, the quest to attain vindication for those who have died, continues... and our unfailing contributions must continue.

On the part of the Commission on Human Rights, while we attained much progress in the areas of promotion and advocacy of human rights, we continue to struggle, as there is much much more to be done in the fulfillment of our protection mandate. People have yet to see results, justice and vindication of the victims. On a personal level, and as I undertake my own struggles as CHR Chairperson, I have validated, what I’ve always believed- It’s more difficult to fight your own battles from within.

To the NCCP, I wish to express our solidarity with you and your efforts. Congratulation on the launch of your book “Let the Stones Cry Out”. May this contribution serve as reminder and an inspiration to all who endeavor to make their own contributions to our enormous struggle for justice and human rights.

Thank you and once again, good morning.
 

Download speech in Word format

           
   
Rev. Rex R. B. Reyes, Jr: Journey for Human Rights of the Church Rev. Christopher Ferguson, WCC: Reflections of a Co-Sojourner
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Dr. Edith Burgos, DESAPARECIDOS: Journey for Human Rights of a Mother Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, KARAPATAN: The Context of our Experience
           

 

Journey for Justice
PUBLISHED ON February 21, 2009 AT 6:30 PM

www.bulatlat.com


“It has helped me make a resolution that the peddlers of lies cannot go on and be left unchecked. Yes, they may be Goliath but the presence of Goliath also gives birth to little Davids.” Edith Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, said this at the launching of the Let the Stones Cry Out!, a book published by the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP).

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

During the height of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), along with other human rights advocates, took an active role in making interventions to address the wanton violation of human rights.

On Feb. 16, the NCCP launched Let the Stones Cry Out!, a book that chronicles the journey taken by church workers in the Philippines, their partners and the victims and families of rights abuses to seek justice.

The NCCP took the lead role in the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice) and the Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch, formations that waged the campaign to highlight extrajudicial killings and other rampant human rights violations in the Philippines before the international community.

In his speech, Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes, NCCP general secretary, said, “Their formation was largely the result of the failure of the three branches of the Philippine government to stop the killings in this country, which took the lives of labor and peasant leaders, lawyers, media people, indigenous people, church people, other activists, and even local government leaders.”

The Ecumenical Voice was organized to bring “Let the Stones Cry Out: An Ecumenical Report on Human Rights in the Philippines and a Call to Action”, which was released in March 2007, to North America and Switzerland.

Before the said report was launched, a Human Rights and Peace Summit was held at the St. Scholastica’s College. This was in July 2006. The National Christian Council of Japan, the United Methodist Church Connectional Table and the United Church of Canada, the Hong Kong Mission for Human Rights and Peace (comprised of representatives from the Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Students Association, Hong Kong Bar Association, Hong Kong Christian Institute, Hong Kong Journalists Association, Justice and Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese, St. John’s Cathedral, English-language South China Morning Post newspaper, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, and Chinese-language Yazhou Zhoukan magazine) and the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church sent delegations to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The North American delegation took the report to the U.S. Congress where Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) secretary-general and Bp. Eliezer Pascua, United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) general secretary, testified before the US Congressional Committee on Defense hearing conducted by Sen. Barbara Boxer.

“The report and the testimony at the US Committee on Defense hearing made their mark,” said Reyes.

They also brought the report to Canada and submitted it to the Parliament.

Reyes said that around the same time, the Switzerland delegation was in Geneva presenting the report to the World Council of Churches, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and various country-missions in the UN.

When the UNHRC announced that it will undertake the UPR and the Philippines was among the first countries to be subjected to it, the Philippine UPR Watch was formed.

The UPR is a process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation went to the First Session of UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva on April 7-18, 2008. The delegation was composed of Reyes; Karapatan’s Enriquez; Jonathan Sta. Rosa, younger brother of slain Ptr. Isias Sta. Rosa; lawyer Edre Olalia, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño and Joan Carling of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

Reyes recalled, “Time and effort were made to give copies of the statements of the UPR Watch and updates on the human rights situation in the Philippines to various missions in the UN. Some of these were followed by personal conversations and reaching-out initiatives. Interventions were made in the UNHRC session to dispute the Philippine Government report.”

He continued, “These efforts, I believe thwarted the Philippine government’s brazen attempt to conceal the truth through its deceptive report at the UPR.”

Two months later, on June 2-18, 2008, the Philippine UPR Watch delegation went to the 8th Session of the Human Rights Council. The 8th session was the occasion for UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Prof. Philip Alston to present his report on the Philippines, among others.

Alston went on a mission to the Philippines in 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and came up with a report specifically pointing to the military’s involvement in these violations.

It was also a time for the Council to act on the Philippine Government report. This time, the Philippine UPR Watch delegation included Edith Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas.

Journey of a mother

In her speech during the launch of the NCCP book, Burgos said her participation in the Philippine UPR Watch helped her observe up close the dynamics of the UN.

“To tell you the truth, from a lay person like me, I found the dynamics unbelievable and incomprehensible,” Burgos said.

“It has helped me make a resolution that the peddlers of lies cannot go on and be left unchecked. Yes, they may be Goliath but the presence of Goliath also gives birth to little Davids. The widow’s might has more value than all the rhetorics by people who participate in these dynamics,” she said.

Caption . (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)

Burgos said, “I am grateful to be given a chance to participate though in a small way because it has also strengthened the family who now is totally involved in the Desaperacidos. Whereas before, there were only two activists: my husband the late Jose Burgos, Jr. was himself an activist, and my son Jonas. There were only two before Jonas was abducted, now there is a whole family and a clan who are activists.”


 

 

 

She said further, “I remember taking the witness stand and I was being questioned by the representative of the Office Solicitor General. And I remember saying something like, ‘Why can’t the soldiers understand that the only way to win people is to help them obtain justice. Now look what you have done to us. If you had two enemies before, then all of us are your enemies because of what you did.’ And the representative of the OSG decided to stop questioning.”

“So today, after that experience, I have adopted the admonition from the Sacred Scripture to be gentle as a dove but to be cunning as a serpent,” she continued.

Burgos said, “How do I describe the victims, the families, the mothers? I see anger, I see hatred, I see anguish. Most of the time, I see dismay. We are given the run around.”

“The sin of the others who were abducted and killed is the same as my son’s sin and that is to care for others more than they care for themselves and to give their lives and what they can do for the country,” she said.

Burgos said she sees forgiveness and purification. “One of the biggest blessings that a victim of an injustice can receive is support of non-victims. It has been more than a year, actually, one year, nine months and 19 days and a few hours since I last heard from my son Jonas.”

“Yes we know that at the end of the day, I still don’t have Jonas. Our dead will remain dead. Well, at least for the missing, we hope to be able to embrace them again,” she said.

“And yet, we find a bright side there by the knowledge that you will stand side by side with us in our search and we’ll continue for as long as we are here. We are emboldened to look forward to the next dawn. I remember a quotation that says it is darkest just before dawn and I hope that it is to be the dawn of our society. I know that you will be with us and the dawn will be beautiful,” Burgos added.

She praised the Philippine UPR Watch team. “I saw how dedicated the team was. I saw how efficient the support method in the Philippines was. To say it accurately, I was edified by these people who could do so much under limited conditions and under threats and risks to life and limb,” she said.

Burgos said, “I congratulate all those who have made this book Let the Stones Cry Out! Without you knowing of it, I keep on praying that you will be kept safe by the Creator of the stones so you can publish some more publications to bring the truth to a bigger audience and to be able to catalyze more people. On our part, we at the Desaperacidos will be as firm as a big bowler. We may be small pebbles crying out but together we will cry out with you and seek justice.”


Much work to be done

In her solidarity message, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila de Lima said, “Much has been said about the efforts of the government to curb crimes of impunity. There remains so much dissatisfaction in the outcome of investigations. Many people remain missing, remain unvindicated. Many fathers and mothers still do not know where their children are held, or their fate. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, many colleagues remain without having attained justice.”

She continued, “But to understand the breadth of the violation against victims is to call all of us to action. If we have called out the government on these crimes, it is only because we have called on ourselves to address the same. The efforts of the religious communities and civil society, of every upstanding citizen, must continue – not because we cannot rely on the government – but because we have no choice but to uphold the values that comprise our faith and our society.”

De Lima congratulated the NCCP for the launch of Let the Stones Cry Out! She said, “Justice, as lofty and abstract as it may be, is for everyone and we all play a part in upholding it. It is not attained by some grandiose gesture, by government or otherwise. It is attained through the small efforts of everyone, crossing boundaries of secularism and sectarianism, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. The quest for justice, the quest to quell extralegal killings, the quest to find the missing, the quest to attain vindication for those who have died, continues… and our unfailing contributions must continue.”

De Lima said, “On the part of the CHR…we continue to struggle, as there is much, much more to be done in the fulfillment of our protection mandate.”

“On a personal level, and as I undertake my own struggles as CHR chairperson, I have validated, what I’ve always believed- It’s more difficult to fight your own battles from within,” she added.

Co-journeyer

Rev. Chris Fergusson, World Council of Churches (WCC) representative to the UN of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, said, “I am standing in a room filled with people who refused to allow God to be appalled, who refused to allow God’s own creation to be sullen by silence or inaction.”

The WCC provided huge support to the NCCP’s advocacy for human rights and justice, Reyes said.

Fergusson recited some verses of Isaiah, Chapter 59. “Justice has turned back. Righteousness stands at a distance. Truth stumbles …and whoever turns from evil is themselves despoiled. The Lord God is displeased that there was no justice and God was so appalled that there was no one to intervene.”

He said, “To imagine with Isaiah the sole call to do justice is the center of our faith but more than that there’s a second point that in the face of injustice what truly appalled God, the greatest call for the revulsion of the Divine is when no one stand up to say no to the injustice.”

Fergussson continued, “…[W]e also came to understand through your witness an analysis and understanding that you are on the quagmire of the second front of the war on terror, that you carry the burden for the expansion of a project, a system for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the very many.”

He said that those who are called to defend the people can see the impact of the said war on terror on peasants, workers, fisherfolk and indigenous people. He said that those who could stand up for these sectors of the Philippine society were the very ones that were targeted. Those were the people under list of battle, they were under watch list, he said.

“We therefore realize in the WCC that we have double responsibility because we are faced with a situation that wasn’t only calling on local government to account but having to put this accountability in terms of the discredited but growing war on terror led by a rogue empire,” Fergusson said.

“We thank you for the opportunity you gave us – to walk with you in our prophetic witness where we understood not just the accountability of the government killing its own people but that was part of our need to struggle against the empire hosting a project in the name of war on terror for economic and political benefits,” he said.

“We give thanks to the … all of those who gave their lives for justice and for all those who continue to give their lives so that the world will know that another world is possible with freedom and justice for all,” Fergusson said.(Bulatlat.com)

 

 

           

News Release
For more information call or email Rev Larry Emery at (916) 284-6986 or email wgcpc@hotmail.com.
 

Faith, Labor, and Human Rights Leaders Send US Congress Letter of Concern on US Military Aid to the Philippines

Wednesday, February 11, 2009— A news conference was held on held Tuesday, February 10, at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, CA, highlighting a “Letter of Concern” signed by over 230 leaders of faith-based organizations, union and labor rights groups, Filipino-American associations and academics and sent earlier this week to members of the United States Congress. The letter protested human rights abuses by the Philippines, funded by US foreign military assistance.

Making presentations at the press conference were Rev. Larry Emery, a Presbyterian pastor and spokesman for the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, which sponsored the letter; Joi Barrios, Lecturer on Filipino Studies at UC Berkeley; Rhonda Ramiro, Northern California Regional Coordinator, BAYAN USA; Armael Malinis, Chair of Anak Bayan East Bay, and Rev Debbie Lee, a Pastor in the UCC and Program Director of the PANA Institute in Berkeley, CA.

Widespread accounts, including reports from the United Nations Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have documented how the military is responsible for the extrajudicial executions of human rights activists, union members, land reform advocates and faith leaders. Ignoring international calls for prosecutions of military officials responsible for attacks on civil society activists, as well as the recommendations from a commission created by President Arroyo herself, the military continues its campaign to abuse human rights with impunity. In one particular case, the Philippine Supreme Court has found that there is credible evidence linking retired general Jovito Palaparan to the disappearance and torture of at least two farmers and possibly many others, yet the President Arroyo has not even called for an investigation to be opened.

The panelists discussed the fact that the US government continues to provide military assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines despite the documented human rights abuses and widespread impunity.. Last year, the US Congress took an initial step in addressing this issue by conditioning a small part of US military aid to the Philippines ($2 million out of a total of $30 million in Foreign Military Financing) on the three conditions: (1) the Philippine government’s successful implementation of the UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, (2) prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations, and (3) the end of the vilification of civil society organizations by the military. However, abuses by the Philippines military continued throughout 2008, and the US State Department did not publicly report on any of the military aid conditions as Congress required.

In the letter delivered to members of Congress a broad and powerful network of church, labor, and Fil-Am groups, including leaders in many of the major protestant denominations, the National Council of Churches of America, the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union, called on the US Congress to require that:

1. The Department of State’s human rights certification be made publicly available in order to promote greater transparency and understanding between the United States and the people of the Philippines;
2. The human rights conditions on military aid enumerated above are in the all upcoming appropriations bills; and
3. The Philippine government receives no further foreign military financing until it meets all of three human rights conditions.

In discussing the human rights abuses, one speaker, Armael Malinis, the head of the youth organization Anak Bayan among the eastern San Francisco Bay area communities, noted that the human rights violations were personal to members of his organization because among the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines are many members of Anak Bayan. During a recent visit with members of Anak Bayan in the Philippines, Malinis reported, their group was intimidated by the police. “They took pictures of everyone attending the different events and even followed us to our hotel.” Malinis believes Anak Bayan is targeted by the government because it supports students in their efforts to investigate, analyze and find the root cause of their nations problems. “When you have a government as corrupt as that of President Arroyo, the truth is censored, sometimes by death and disappearances.”

Rev Larry Emery, in his concluding remarks at the press conference, said, "We believe that the climate in the US Congress is ripe for our request (to condition all future military aid). Barak Obama said in his Inaugural address:"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." The Philippine Military is on the wrong side of history, The US Government must not help them cling to their power, nor aid them in their corruption, nor enable them in their deceit and their silencing of dissent. We must stop funding their treachery until such time as they unclench their fist, and align themselves on the right side of history."

 

■   Ecumenicall Advocay Network on the PHilippines: Hundreds of Faith, Labor and Human Rights leaders urge restrictions on US military aid to the Philippines (pdf format)

 

■   A Letter to Members of the United States Congress from Church Leaders, Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizen Groups Regarding the Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines

 

■   Talking points for letter of concern

 

Bishop Solito K. Toquero: Words of Welcome
Pastor Berlin Guerrero: Words of Wisdom from Detention
Church Chorale Group
           
     

 

PRESS STATEMENT
February 12, 2009

 

Abduction of Pastor Edwin Egar of the United Church of Christ in the Philippins

The violations to the rights and dignity of persons under the presidency of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continue with impunity. It is evident in the widespread poverty, unabated graft and corruption, and extrajudicial killings and abductions. The latest victim; Pastor Edwin Egar of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). All in all, some 20 church workers and lay leaders of the UCCP have been killed, a number imprisoned.

On February 11, 2009, on or about 5:30-6:00 pm, six unidentified armed men alighted from a van and a car, barged in the house of Mrs. Ellen Lunar Delgado, Pastor Egar’s niece in Bgy. Alupay, Rosario, Batangas. They rushed to where Pastor Egar was and forcibly dragged him into a Mitsubishi Adventure van. Ellen and Mrs. Luz Villa, Edwin’s sister, tried to go with the group but they were prevented as guns were pointed to them.

Pastor Edwin Egar has been hounded by the military for more than two years. He is being linked to the New People’s Army. The UCCP congregation in Macalamcam, Rosario, Batangas where his wife, Rev. Juliet Egar is the administrative pastor, has been tagged as a “red area” meaning, infiltrated by communist insurgents. On several occasions, church leaders presented him before military and police officers to clarify the insinuations. In fact in a dialogue participated in by high ranking military and police officials was held right in Macalamcam, the officers gave Pastor Edwin a clean bill.

Pastor Edwin is part of what is now known as Calapan 72, a group of 72 leaders of people’s organizations that included a pastor of the United Methodist church and two (2) lay leaders of the UCCP, charged with multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder by the Regional Trial Court Branch 39 in Calapan City and a warrant of arrest was issued. Six of the 72 were arrested but they were released when Hon. Manuel C. Luna, judge of the same court, quashed the said warrant in a decision rendered February 5, 2009.

Apparently, either the men who abducted Pastor Edwin were totally ignorant of the quashing of the warrant, or they just wanted to harass and inflict pain to men and women like Pastor Egar who exercised his prophetic ministry and served the poor farmers in Batangas, specially during times of disasters and hardships.

That he was not tortured nor killed is something that we can be thankful for. But as we look at the incident as part of the track record of a government that has refused admission to the incidents of human rights violation and continues to be, as stated in the report Philip Alston of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in a state of denial, then such incidents should be condemned and denounced.

We call the police or military unit that conducted the arrest/abduction of Pastor Edwin to issue and apology since the manner of the arrest violated even accepted procedures of engagement.

We call on the government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo not to coddle human right violators and subject them to disciplinary action as eventually, it is her regime that will be held responsible to the acts of her subordinates.

We call on our people to stand firm and defend their rights and dignity even as our country is gripped with economic crisis, moral decadence and apathy. Let us all become instruments of peace and change.

(SGD) BISHOP ELIEZER M. PASCUA
General Secretary
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THE PHILIPPINES
February 12, 2009.
Reference: 536-8005; 0918-9266839


FACTSHEET

Incident: Illegal Arrest/Abduction
Victim : Pastor EDWIN EGAR, Pastor, United Church of Christ in the Philippines
Place of incident: Bgy. Alupay, Rosario, Batangas

Time and Date; On or around 5:30-600 pm, February 11, 2009

Narration:

On February 11, 2009, Pastor Edwin Egar dropped by to deliver some household goods, rice, vegetables in the house of his niece Mrs. Ellen Lunar Delgado and his sister, Mrs. Luz Villa Luna. On or around 5:30-6:00pm a dark blue Mitsubishi Adventure with plate no MDF 543, and a Toyota corolla unknown plate number arrived. About six armed proceeded to look Pastor Edwin. When they saw him, they asked Ikaw ba si Edwin Egar? (Are you Edwin Egar) Since the men did not identify themselves he said “I am Romeo Delgado”, pretended to be Ellen’s husband. They showed a photocopied paper, told them that was a warrant of arrest, but where not shown to Edwin, and relatives. Then they dragged him to the Misubishi Adventure

Ellen and Luz tried to go with the group but they were prevented, with guns pointed at them. Pushed, Luz asked, where are you taking my brother., They replied “sumunod na lang kayo sa Camp Batangas. (Just follow to the camp in Batangas)

On board, he was handcuffed, hands behind is back, and sped away from the place.

Inside the van he was asked if he was Edwin, and he replied yes. He was asked if he knew that he has an arrest warrant, and he said yes. He told the men that the judge has already quashed the warrant.

He was asked to produce the documents of the quashing the warrant, but he cannot show any. He was then asked of his activities, i.e. where did he bring the bolos he purchased in 2005. He explained that those were part of relief goods to help farmers during the flood 2005.

He was asked repeatedly whether he knew of the charge against him, that it was murder and that there is no bail. He answered affirmatively. He was told that he could be released if he could pinpoint the whereabouts of at least two from the 72 included in the warrant. (The 72 are now known as Calpan 72. Six had been arrested, including KMU lawyer Atty Saladero. 4 have been temporarily released). He was asked of other names that were not in the warrant.

After the interrogation on board the vehicles, he asked where he is to brought, the men said to Camp Vicente Lim (Canlubang). Pastor Edwin informed them about a dialogue of church people and military and police that took place in Camp Vicente Lim in 2008. When they reached the Camp, he was brought to the Regional Intelligence Unit compound, still blindfolded. He was seated for more than 1 hour. Later, he was given food, his blindfold removed, his cuffed were brought forward so he can eat. He only saw his food server and his abductors were no longer around.

He was asked to sign a waver, indicating that he was invited, that he followed them on his own free will. And that he was not hurt.

After 30 minutes one of his abductors said, we will now turn you over to the police. He was put on board again to the van, put his blindfold again. Along the expressway, and was told that he is to be brought home.

The man in front of the vehicle told him that they do not want confrontation with relatives so he was asked where he wanted to be brought. He suggested Lipa City, but the men insisted that it should be nearer his house.

He was given instructions: that he will alight still with blindfolds. He will count 20 before removing it. He will take a jeep to the Rosario police station where his relatives were supposed to be waiting. Which he did.

At the Rosario, Batangas police station he saw his relatives, church workers and friends. He was released at around 11:00 pm and was held for a period of 5 hours from the time he was abducted.

His wallet and contents was taken from him, but his cash about P650 and L50 (pounds) were returned to him. The duplicate key of his mother’s car that he was using, Nissan was not returned.

When they returned home, Princess Janelle, 5 years old daughter Ellen, was observed to have experienced trauma from witnessing the incident, specially when a gun was pointed to Edwin’s head. She would cry and vomit and shout “mommy” and could not explain why..

Taken by
REV. EPHRAIM V. GUERRERO
Executive Secretary for Organizational Ministries
Office of the General Secretary
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
February 12, 2009

 

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