By National Council of Churches in the Philippines
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines stands in solidarity with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, in the face of the persecution of its church workers for their courageous defence of the poor and the disenfranchised. The UCCP denounced the recent harassment and surveillance of Pastor June Ver Mangao, a UCCP pastor assigned in Mabitac, perpetrated by intelligence agents of the 1st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army under the command of Col. Jose Augusto Villareal.
The NCCP is outraged that the military continues to brand church workers who stand with the poor as leftists and targets them to surveillances and harassment. In the continued climate of impunity that prevails in the Philippines, where perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and human rights abuses are not brought to account for their actions, any tagging by the military of church workers as leftists puts the lives of all church workers in potential danger. The NCCP denounces this vilification of church workers. Jesus Christ calls people of faith to stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. This faithful advocacy of the Christian gospel neither makes churchworkers enemies of the state nor leftists.
Pastor Mangao, is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary (Philippines) and a former exchange student of the Stockholm School of Theology (Sweden). He has exemplified this commitment to the poor through his involvement with the church in Mabitac, its community outreach program to the poor in Brgy. Kabulusan, Pakil, Laguna, and his chairmanship of the Community Ministries Committee of the Northeast Southern Tagalog Conference of the UCCP. Pastor Mangao has also been involved in the Prison program of the UCCP in Laguna Provincial Jail. He conducts regular visitation to political and other prisoners and has organized the church’s advocacy on their behalf.
The NCCP calls on our member churches and international partners to pray for and maintain continual vigilance against signs of abuse of power and authority by the military. We call for a change in the culture of impunity in the Philippines, where human rights defenders and church people, are subject to killing, disappearance and harassment, and where perpetrators are not brought to account. The NCCP calls on the government of the Philippines to respect the human rights of all citizens and to cease from engaging in harassment, labelling and surveillance of human rights defenders and church workers. The NCCP urges the President to exercise his command responsibility to ensure that our churchworkers do not become vulnerable to harassment, surveillance and labelling, that place their lives at risk and undermine their vocation to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ among and for the poor. Let us uphold the persistent prayer and call that all of God’s children live in peace in their homes, in their workplaces and in their communities.
REV. REX RB REYES, JR.
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
THE MOST REVEREND EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
and Chairperson, National Council of Churches in the Philippines