The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) said in a statement this weekend that the human rights situation of the country is already “in a state of brokenness.”
“When human rights are denied and violated, God’s image is also violated in us, as we are created in God’s image,” read a statement issued by the Protestant organization.
“It is therefore our continuing duty as Christians to claim, restore, and defend whatever rights have been denied and trampled upon,” the group added.
The NCCP joined the observance of the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Manila on Saturday, December 10.
The UN Declaration recognizes dignity and rights as inherent and inalienable to all human beings. The Philippines was among the 48 countries that voted for the Declaration and has its principles enshrined in the Constitution.
The Protestant Council, however, said the full enjoyment of human rights by the Filipino people “remains elusive.”
The Church group cited the soaring prices of food and the many families who are “going hungry each day, as prices of basic commodities shoot up, and people continue to suffer.”
“Sadly, the solution of the government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is to resort to more borrowing despite a PhP12.1 trillion debt that it inherited from the Duterte administration,” read the group’s statement.
They also tagged as a “dubious financial scheme” the proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund of the government.
In its statement, the NCCP also noted the continuing “climate of impunity” in the country.
Citing a study done by the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center, the NCCP said there have been 127 deaths connected with the “war on drugs” from July 1 to November 7 this year, mostly attributed to state security forces.
The group said Marcos has also inherited his predecessor’s machinery against legitimate dissent, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Anti-Terrorist Financing Law.
“Thus, the constriction of civic and democratic spaces continues and there are more vicious patterns of attacks against human rights defenders,” the NCCP statement added, citing rights group Karapatan’s data that listed 937 human rights defenders killed since 2001.
“The practice of filing trumped-up charges against activists, and human rights defenders, including among church people, continues in many parts of the country,” read the Church group’s statement.
It noted the case of Rev. Glofie S. Baluntong of the United Methodist Church who has been serving the Mangyan community on the island of Mindoro for years. He has recently been charged with violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law.
NCCP said other church people who are facing “trumped-up charges” and are currently detained are Pastor Jimmy Teves, a lay pastor of UCCP; Rev. Nathaniel “Dodo” Vallente, of the UCCP, a peasant advocate, and, Aldeem Yanez of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), former NCCP Vice Chairperson for Youth and a composer of hymns.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the UCCP Haran and UCCP Fatima in Bohol are also facing cases related to the Anti-Terrorism Financing Act.
The government has also tagged several individuals and groups, including churches and church leaders, of having links with the communist underground movement.
“We thus call on the government of President Marcos Jr. to follow all international human rights standards and to heed the various recommendations made by member states during the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Councils,” read the NCCP statement.specially of those who are poor and oppressed and to be united in restoring wholeness and the image of God in all of us.