Continuing Our Defense for Human Rights and Human Dignity and Affirming our Call to End Impunity
“When justice is done, good people are happy, but evil people are brought to despair.” Proverbs 21:15
During the 23rd General Convention, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), issued “A Clarion Call To End The Climate Of Impunity” and called on the government to:
- Scrap its counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, in particular the practice of labeling of activists as enemies of the state, and the filing of fabricated charges against those who are being tagged as the government’s enemies.
- Render justice to the victims of human rights violations committed by State security forces through proper investigation and prosecution of perpetrators; that the principle of command responsibility with respect to the military hierarchy as basis for criminal liability for extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. Government and military officers found to perpetrate human rights violations should not be entitled to any form of immunity.
- Reform the criminal justice system to address the pervading climate of impunity centered, in particular, on the enhancement and protection of human rights through the speedy and proper investigation, arrest, prosecution, and conviction of perpetrators.
Four years have passed, and we are now at the tail-end of President Aquino’s term. We have seen the culture of impunity persist in our country, where those who engage in extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights abuses are not investigated or brought before the bar of legal justice. Worse, some of them are even promoted.
None of the extrajudicial killings that occurred under the Arroyo administration have been addressed, despite promises from the current president. Rather we have witnessed continued incidents of gross human rights violations, including extrajudicial killing, and a continued perpetuation of the culture of impunity.
Increasingly indigenous people and environmental defenders have become victims as they seek to defend their ancestral domain from development aggression, with the military serving to protect foreign mining interests rather than to serve our own citizens. Meanwhile the military promotes paramilitary groups to go against their own tribes and employs the tired argument that indigenous peoples are supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Our clarion call and specific calls to the government four years ago to end impunity still ring true with utmost urgency. As a Council of Churches we pledge to renew our commitment to the defense of human rights and for an end to impunity. We believe that “human dignity is God’s gift to humanity; human rights are humanity’s gift to itself”. This means that human rights are the result of the people’s struggle throughout history for abundant life, enshrined through laws and international instruments. The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states that: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” With the creation of the UDHR in 1948, the community of nations professed what the scriptures had already made clear; the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every person. In Genesis 1:26-27—humans are created in God’s image. When rights are denied and violated, the divine image within the human person is violated and the dignity that it confers diminished.
As we launch out into the deep for justice and peace in our struggle to defend human rights and end impunity, we pledge to continue our work in proclaiming the divine image within in every person and in protecting the human dignity that being created in the image of God confers. We are creatures of a God who “loves righteousness and justice” (Psalm 33:5). We call the Council and member churches to:
- Support the work of “Confronting Challenges on Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines” a project funded by the European Union, under the leadership of the NCCP.
- Open our churches and church communities as sanctuaries for victims of human rights violations.
- Conduct human rights education among our constituents.
- Continue to engage the United Nations Human Rights Council in demanding the Philippine government to honor its commitments to international human rights standards and instrumentalities even as the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines will be held in the first half of 2017.
This statement was approved by the 24th General Convention of NCCP last November 23 – 26, 2015 at Tagaytay City.
 Rev. Liberato C. Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for the United Nations and International Affairs of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church.