Petition 80628

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Philippines (80628-C1-R9999)

Add new resolution to the Book of Resolutions as follows:  
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and righteousness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled. The Lord saw it and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene...”  
- Isaiah 59:14-16 NRSV  
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her broad under her wings, and you were not willing!” - Matthew 23:37 NRSV  
Our Concern: Human Rights Violations Continue  
The United Methodist Church continues to be alarmed by and concerned about the unabated and egregious violations of human rights in the Philippines. Such violations continue to take the form of extrajudicial killings, summary executions, abductions, torture, arbitrary political detentions, and enforced disappearances. Victims of human rights violations, according to a September 2007 report by the Philippine human rights group Karapatan, total 886 extrajudicial killings and 179 disappearances. The Philippines has officially collaborated and is widely perceived as having willingly subordinated itself to the United States-prosecuted war on terror, resulting in the designation of the Philippines as the second front in this war. Even more alarming is the recently adopted Human Security Act which is the Philippine blueprint for counterinsurgency that many Filipinos regard as dismissive of human rights and their protection.  
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Hon. Reynato Puno, who is the first ever Filipino United Methodist to hold this high and lofty position, said in a university commencement speech: “One visible result of the scramble to end terrorism is to take legal shortcuts and legal shortcuts always shrink the scope of human rights... These shortcuts have searched the landscape of rights in the Philippines...The escalation of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines has attracted the harsh eye of advocates of human Rights...Their initial findings are not complementing to our Constitutional commitment to protect human rights...If there is any lesson that we can derive from the history of human rights, it is none other than these rights cannot be obliterated by bombs but neither can they be preserved by bullets alone. Terrorism is a military-police problem but its ultimate solution lies beyond the guns of our armed forces....The apathy of those who can make a difference is the reason why violations of human rights continue to prosper. The worst enemy of human rights is not its non-believers but the fence sitters who will not lift a finger despite their violations.” The Human Rights Situation is Appalling  
Many international groups—religious bodies, non-governmental organizations, foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations—have pressed the Philippine government to do more to stop the many disturbing forms of human rights violations in the Philippines, urging the government to fulfill its constitutional and international law obligations.  
Prof. Phillip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, issued a press statement after a ten-day visit to the Philippines in 2007 that characterized the Philippine Armed Forces as being “in a state of almost total denial” on the need to resolve the “significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.” He called the human rights situation tragic and in a “climate of virtual impunity.” In his preliminary report to the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 22, 2007, Prof. Alston emphasized governmental culpability, especially in the military, in the human rights violations.  
The 2006 US State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices dealing with the Philippines opened with the following statement: “During the year there were a number of arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors. Many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases. Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed and procedures were prolonged. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Corruption was a problem in all the institutions making up the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutorial, and judicial organs. During a brief ‘state of emergency’ in February, there was some attempted interference in freedom of the press and in the right of assembly. In addition to the killings mentioned above, leftwing and human rights activists were often subject to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women and abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common.”  
Several other reports from international human rights groups echo the same concerns about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. These include reports from groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Asian Human Rights Commission. Even the Philippine government-appointed independent commission to address “media and activist killings,” otherwise known as the Melo Report, has pointed to the need for the Philippine government to take firmer action to resolve the killings. The Filipino People Deserve our Solidarity and Action  
Of the many reports, we welcome especially “Let the Stones Cry Out: An Ecumenical Report on Human Rights in the Philippines and a Call to Action” released by the ecumenical and non-governmental community in the Philippines, led by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, whose production and distribution was led and supported by a couple of general agencies of our church.  
“This report articulates the protests and indignations of human rights organizations, Church and faith institutions, civil libertarians, justice and peace advocates, parliamentarians, numerous fact-finding missions, multilateral organizations as well as a number of foreign governments and their agencies all over the world on the spate of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, threats and harassment, and other violations of human rights. Their collective call – ‘Stop the killings!’ – is addressed to the government of President Gloria M. Arroyo given its inadequate action over the deteriorating human rights situation and despite persistent calls for investigation, prosecution and adjudication of the alleged perpetrators of these politically-motivated crimes.”  
We share with the ecumenical community in the Philippines the perspective posed and the burden of the question raised in the ecumenical report’s preface: “Something is wrong when members of the clergy and lay missionaries are being silenced when they are deeply engaged in missions that address the concerns of their constituencies – and the Philippine society as a whole. Something is wrong when members of the church and faith institutions are killed, go missing or arrested while pursuing their calling to bring about justice closer to the poor, to fight for their rights, and advocate peace in a society that is torn asunder by armed conflicts fueled by structural problems. Of greater alarm is that the gross and systematic attacks on these pilgrims of peace and servants of God are forcing their institutions to an inevitable clash with the State....”  
We issue this statement not only to support the ecumenical report from the Philippines and the direction in which its call to action points. We issue this statement because the struggle for human rights in the Philippines is at a point when our solidarity and accompaniment, as we have expressed in many ways and many times in the past, are crucial and needed even more so today.  
We Commit to Action with Resolve and Dispatch  
Filipino faith communities and other citizens continue to address the situation in the Philippines. And the Philippine judiciary has taken the cudgels for them—ensuring that the rule of law is going to be biased towards a universal adherence and practice of human rights. In a very laudable effort by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, a “National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances—Searching for Solutions”—was conducted. In his opening remarks, Chief Justice Reynato Puno stated: “The time has come to say less and do more...(I)n the crusade to protect constitutional rights there is o room for neutrality. They who seek to remain in the safety of the sidelines when human rights are under assault shall be condemned by history into irrelevance.”  
General boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church have addressed the human rights situation in the Philippines in a variety of ways and venues, including providing leadership to t he Philippine Working Group (PWG), which helped produce the ecumenical human rights report and supported the itineration of a Philippine ecumenical delegation called “Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.” This ecumenical voice has since expanded its membership and its voice is ever more heard in the Philippines.  
The PWG was also instrumental in the holding of a US House of Representatives briefing and a US Senate hearing on March 14, 2007. United Methodists in California played a crucial role in getting Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) to hold these watershed meetings by the US Congress. Our church also helped secure meetings with the US State Department and key congressional offices to raise concerns about the Philippine human rights situation. Our church, through a number of its boards and agencies, also accompanied the ecumenical delegation in submitting the ecumenical report to a variety of United Nations-related offices in Geneva, Switzerland, especially the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Indigenous Peoples, and on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.  
Other annual conferences in the United States, such as California-Nevada, Pacific Northwest, Desert Southwest, California-Pacific, and Northern Illinois, have also addressed these issues, including conducting fact-finding, solidarity and mission trips to the Philippines. In all these visits, Philippine church leaders and church workers showed them the appalling human rights situation and in turn the visitors voiced their concern with government and military officials, and expressed their solidarity with church and community leaders.  
We Commit to Work on the Following Actions:  
We will submit this statement to concerned governmental and intergovernmental offices, accompanied by the ecumenical report, Let the Stones Cry Out.  
We call on the Philippine government to immediately stop the killings and all the other forms of human rights violations, to take effective measures to bring to justice members of its security forces and their agents for whom there is credible evidence of human rights violations, to comply with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws, to rescind national security policies that make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants, to hold free and fair elections, and to investigate any allegations of electoral fraud.  
We call on the Philippine government to stop the practice of listing peace and human rights advocates in its watch lists of individuals banned from entering or leaving the Philippines, and to expunge such record of names already listed.  
We call on other governments, but especially the governments of the United States of America, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and significant development aid and trading partners like Japan, to look into these human rights violations and pressure the Philippine government to stop them. To this end, we also support moves within the US Congress calling for a review of official development aid and trade and economic arrangements to examine whether these do or do not further exacerbate human rights violations.  
We especially call for any military appropriations and official development assistance to the Philippine government to be conditioned to a strict adherence to international laws and standards of human rights and good governance, and thereby support the development and use of benchmarks that will guide and measure the Philippine government’s adherence to the same. Since human rights thrive under democratic, just and peaceful conditions we call for the resumption of peace talks by the government, without preconditions, with all of the Philippine rebel groups, so that through negotiations the civil, political, social, economic and cultural problems that beset the Philippines may result into just and durable peace.  
We call on the United Nations and its agencies, to continue investigating human rights violations in the Philippines, and to offer help to the Philippine government in meeting its international obligations, including empowerment and capacity-building of non-governmental organizations in their work of monitoring Philippine government compliance and promotion of human rights.  
Lastly, we call on our general boards, agencies, annual conferences and local churches in the US and throughout the global connection, including the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists, to work with Philippine annual conferences, ecumenical bodies and non-governmental organizations in joint undertakings to address the peace and human rights situation in the Philippines.  
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these are things I hate, says the Lord.” - Zechariah 8:16-17 NRSV