One Voice denounces Tokhang-style killings of activists

They have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:14)

We join in One Voice to express our deep concern over the brazen killings of human rights defenders, community activists, labor organizers, and environmentalists as well as the arrests of many others, using trumped-up charges. We denounce these unfathomable acts that disrespect life and violate human rights.

Early Sunday morning, police conducted Tokhang-style raids on the houses and offices of activists in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal. When the news of these raids reached us, we were aghast with the brazen cruelty and gross arrogance by government state forces. These utterly barbaric acts have no place in a society that is rational and believes in the sanctity of human life.

These killings and arrests came just days after a speech by Pres. Duterte ordered government forces to kill rebels and do away with concerns for human rights. Calabarzon police chief Brigadier General Felipe Natividad also announced that the operations were in compliance with Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70,  a whole-of-nation approach to ending the communist insurgency in the Philippines.

The March 7 operations killed and arrested leaders and active members of people’s organizations openly asserting their rights to voice the grievances of the people, even amidst the shrinking democratic space under the Duterte administration. By all logical measure, the simultaneous raids and the resulting killings, were not encounters with armed rebels, but a fascistic targeting of social activists of open, legal, and recognized cause-oriented groups.

The search warrants and early morning raids of homes and offices are dubious. The killings of Emmanuel Asuncion, Chai Evangelista, Ariel Evangelista, Mark Lee Bascano, Melvin Dasigao, Puroy dela Cruz, Randy dela Cruz, Abner Esto, and Edward Esto appear to be nothing but pre-meditated murders. Something is terribly wrong.

We call for an independent investigation into the recent killings and arrests.  A reasonable, humane and lawful approach to peacebuilding and law enforcement must be observed. Tokhang-style executions are violations of human rights.

Extra-judicial killings have not resolved the drug problem in our country and have actually exacerbated poverty and suffering for many Filipino families. To employ similar Tokhang operations on activists and leaders of the progressive Left is not only criminal, but an affront to the democratic rights of every Filipino.

Activism for social change seeks to address injustices and inadequacies in the systems, policies, and programs of governance. State-sponsored killings of activists should never be made acceptable—fabricating evidence against them only further exposes the serious corruption and injustice in the Duterte government.

In this time of pandemic, we need to focus our attention on how to manage and overcome COVID-19. The Duterte administration would do well to focus on this threat to our collective welfare.  We condemn the calls for killings, when what the country needs is a government that heals.

We invite the Filipino people to join us in One Voice to pray for our nation and to uphold this common concern for the safety and welfare of those who are under attack. May our faith sustain us and strengthen our courage to continue in a shared mission ‘to seek peace and pursue it.’(Ps.34:14).        

Signed:

Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, D.D. Apostolic Administrator, Archdiocese of Manila

Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines

The Most Revd Rhee Timbang, Obispo Maximo Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, Provincial Superior,  De La Salle Brothers in East Asia

Rt. Rev. Rex Reyes Jr., Diocesan Bishop

Bishop Emergencio Padillo, Middle Luzon Jurisdiction, United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Sr. Ma. Lisa Ruedas, DC., Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Daughters of Charity

Sr. Rowena Pineda, MMS, MedicalMission Sisters/  Sisters ‘ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN)

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