Philippines says National Council of Churches is a terrorist group
The NCCP has spoken out against the heavy government policies against drug trafficking. 5,300 have been killed in the past three years.The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches supported the NCCP.
NCCP · MANILA · 22 NOVEMBER 2019 · 13:40 CET
The Department of National Defense of the Philippines (DND) has included the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) in the list of “front organizations of local communist terrorist groups”.
In adition to the NCCP, a number of humanitarian and service-oriented organizations were placed on this list, which was presented by Major General Reuben Basiao, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, on November 5.
“BASELESS AND UNFOUNDED” ACCUSATION
In a statement, the NCCP “decries the baseless and unfounded inclusion of its name in the list [...] and respectfully call on the government to seriously review and revisit the accusations and engage in peace building instead”.
“We recognize the clear threat that is now posed to the NCCP staff, member churches, associate members, and other ecumenical partners”, they said in a letter the NCCP sent to its partners last week.
The NCCP also warned that “the red-tagging will delay, or even prevent, the delivery of much-needed services to marginalized communities in the midst of disasters. On a larger scale, this will further shrink the already limited civil space”.
5.300 SUSPECTS KILLED BY THE POLICE SINCE 2016
In June 2019, the Philippine government rejected the United Nations call for an investigation into human rights violations for the government’s policies against drug trafficking, arguing that it was an "interference".
According to official figures, 5,300 suspects have been killed by the police since 2016. But according to human rights defenders, the figure would be three times higher.
The NCCP explained in the letter to its partners that “within the past few days, we have witnessed attacks against civil society organizations that are critical of the government’s policies and programs. There have been raids, illegal arrests, and vilification. Before this of course, there were even killings of activists and human rights defenders”.
“The NCCP deems these moves as desperate attempts by the authorities to criminalize dissent and to weaponize the law against the people”, it said.
PCEC: “WE CALL THE GOVERNMENT TO RESCIND THE ACCUSATION”
“We are unwavering in our confidence that NCCP is not a communist front. Like PCEC, it is an organization of sincere men and women which longs to see Jesus Christ enthroned on a transformed and flourishing nation”, said in a statement Bishop Noel Pantoja, National Director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC).
Pantoja also explained that “our close collaboration with NCCP extends also to other important areas, such as church planting, disaster response, creation care, fight against human trafficking, and others”.
The PCEC, a member of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), pointed out that “in regard to insurgency, PCEC together with NCCP and other Christian denominations, have been constantly supporting the government of the Republic of the Philippines/ National Democratic front of the Philippines peace negotiations”.
“We call urgently upon the leadership of Armed Forces of the Philippines and the DND, to rescind its accusation and to conduct immediately a deeper and more circumspect inquiry”, the statement said.
The Filipino evangelicals also called on the authorities to “defend vigilantly the rights of poor people”, and appealed to President Duterte “to again walk the path of peaceful negotiations. We are convinced it is the only path that will lead to lasting peace”.
“We call on our Evangelical constituents, and all men and women of faith, to offer prayers for our nation’s political and military leaders, as well as the leaders of the communist insurgency, that they will resolutely choose the way of peace for the sake not only of our present generation but also of the rest”, the statement concluded.
CHRISTIAN LEADERS WORLDWIDE CONDEMN THE LISTING
The government action has been widely condemned by several international Christian leaders.
Rev. Olav Fyse Tveit, World Council of Churches General Secretary, said “red tagging in effect gives a green light to harassment and deadly attacks by security forces and militias against those listed”.
Similar statements have been released by the Christian Conference of Asia, the Action of Churches Together Alliance, Christian Aid, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, among others.
Founded in 1963, the NCCP is an ecumenical federation of churches of non-Roman Catholic denominations.