Human Rights in the Philippines

As you read this I will be enroute to Manila
with aq delegation of United Methodist Church leaders to meet with church
leaders, laity and human rights advocates to express concern about the treatment
of church and human rights advocates in the country.
(Revised 1/1/2006, 7:30 P.M. CST)

As you read this I will be enroute to Manila with a delegation of United Methodist Church leaders to meet with Filipino church leaders, laity and human rights advocates. We will discuss their concern about the treatment of church and human rights advocates and the deaths and disappearances of more than a half dozen persons in the church and human rights community in the past year.

On November 28, 2005, Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg, III, the Ilocos-Cordilera Regional Coordinator of the Rural Missionionaries of the Philippines, was slain on the national highway in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. A reflection on his death is here.

Hours before, Albert Terredano was gunned down in Bangued, Abra. Mr. Terredano was president of the Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association, an affiliate of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees. He was a paralegal volunteer at the Cordillera Indigenous People Legal Center.

Church leaders have called on the government to investigate these deaths and bring the perpetrators to justice. However, at this writing, it appears these pleas have not only fallen on deaf ears, the government persists in characterizing the victims as political operatives engaged in unsavory activity.

In fact, those killed and missing have been advocates for the poor. They have sought to organize community-based economic models and to encourage civic engagement among those left out of the deteriorating Philippine economy.

The concern of the church leaders is for an end to the deaths and disappearances of those working on human rights, and justice for the families of those slain In addition, they seek to support the ability of the poor to have the opportunity to pursue economic justice and express their rights as citizens.

The delegation will attempt to meet with government officials to discuss these concerns and to meet with local religious leaders to express support for their efforts to minister with the poor and disenfranchised.

The United Methodist Church includes three episcopal areas in the Philippines (Davao, Baguio, and Manila) with a membership of approximately 600,000 in 19 annual conferences with several hundred local congregations.

In addition, the church has been engaged in mission and service ministries in the Philippines since January 22, 1899 when the Methodist mission board authorized a missionary bishop based in Bombay, India, Bishop James Thoburn, to initiate mission in the Philippines.

I intend to file blog posts from Manila if Internet access makes it possible.

From the Philippines I will proceed to Africa to meet with church and community leaders to discuss community-based radio and communications infrastructure needs in those countries.

I hope to see community-based radio stations in operation and to discuss the feasibility of extending the capacity of the church to communicate with broader coverage.

The dissemination of information about prevention of HIV/AIDS and other health-related information is a critical need in most of the developing world and community-based radio is one means of effectively delivering life-enhancing information.

I will post to Perspectives as I am able while on this trip.

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