A Christmas appeal
December 13, 2015
(published in https://opinion.inquirer.net/109422/a-christmas-appeal)
Dear President Duterte:
With 12 days to Christmas, children and families deserve the best of this season’s gift — to be able to celebrate Christmas with all their loved ones.
We ask you to give the gift of freedom to Bishop Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and over 400 political prisoners in the Philippines. Freedom is long overdue for our Filipino brothers and sisters — community activists, justice and peace advocates who have been treated as criminals, tortured in prisons and forcibly separated from their loved ones.
In this season of hope, we urge to rescind your Proclamation No. 360 that effectively terminated formal peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. We are concerned that your declaration of war against the New People’s Army and “communist fronts” is clearly leading to a bloody repeat of previous corrupt and repressive regimes’ attacks on human rights defenders, community activists and ordinary civilians. A few days after motorcycle-riding gunmen opened fire on a fact-finding mission in Negros that claimed lives of two human rights workers, activist Roman Catholic priest Marcelito “Tito” Paez, chairperson of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, was added to the growing list of political killings. Government troops also prevented much-needed relief goods from getting to the indigenous peoples who evacuated after military operations targeted their communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
We hold all the families of the unjustly imprisoned, tortured, persecuted and forcibly uprooted from their communities in our prayers. In the name of 17-year-old Kian Loyd de los Santos and all the innocent lives lost, we stand in solidarity with the global voices demanding an end to state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings and the lifting of martial law in the Philippines.
Mr. President, we urge you to stop your military and police forces from committing further abuses in the name of the “war on terror” and “war on drugs.” You hold the power to make 2018 more hopeful for the Filipino people.
We pray for your administration to make a turn in favor of human rights, justice and peace in the Philippines. We look forward to hearing you proclaim freedom for Bishop Morales and all political prisoners, and your willingness to resume formal peace negotiations to pursue the agenda for socioeconomic reforms that will benefit the Filipino people.
national director, Christian World Service, New Zealand;
REV. CHRIS SULLIVAN,
Catholic permanent deacon, New Zealand;
REV. DR. STUART VOGEL;
secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa;
spokesperson, Auckland Philippines Solidarity