Hands off Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Hands off our Church Sanctuaries

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God. – Micah 6:8, NIV

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines deplores the recent harassment against Bishop Hamuel Tequis, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – South East Mindanao Jurisdiction, who has led his flock in providing safe refuge to Lumad evacuees in Davao City.  On April 27, 2021, officers from the Philippine National Police went to both Brokenshire College and the Southern Mindanao District Conference Office of the UCCP, asking for Bishop Tequis and inquiring on his whereabouts. We are concerned for the safety and welfare of Bishop Hamuel, as this is one among many incidents of harassment against his ministry with the indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

Apparently, the Davao Regional Trial Court Branch 12 had issued warrants of arrest days earlier, against the good bishop and five other administrators of the UCCP-HARAN. Alleging Child Abuse (RA 7610) and other infractions, the respondents, along with Bishop Tequis were: Grace Avila; Rev. Daniel Paclite; Ephraim Malazarte; Lindy Trenilla; and, Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization Secretary-General, Jong Monzon.

Prior to this, a resolution by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) issued a freeze order covering the three bank accounts of UCCP HARAN and their Assets in March 2021. This was based on ludicrous and malicious allegations that the UCCP has been used to ‘finance terrorism’ and is allegedly harboring lumad in the compound for the purpose of indoctrinating them with ‘communist ideals.’

We are disturbed that the government has become so rabid and insistent in maligning good and life-giving deeds of the Christian faithful through our churches and institutions. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) relentlessly vilifies churches, clergy, those who minister with and dedicate their resources to advocating for the Lumad peoples in Mindanao. The vilification  of ministries and programs of our churches is already a vicious pattern from a government attacking its own citizenry. Instead of supporting ministries that promote and protect life, government officials and state forces too often become obstacles to the flourishing of Jesus’ promise of abundant life for all. Instead of harassing Church ministries the government should focus its energy and resources to control the COVID-19 pandemic and provide services to those most vulnerable to hunger and illness at this difficult time.

The NCCP stands by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and in its unwavering commitment and ministry in championing the collective rights of the Lumad of Mindanao. And as we share with the Lord’s people who are in need, we continue to practice hospitality even in the midst of the attacks and the most unfavorable situations (Romans 12:13).

As a council of churches, we raise our concern for and support Bishop Hamuel Tequis and the other human rights defenders, facing these charges and harassments. We reiterate to the government that as state duty bearers, they must fully uphold human rights and the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution including freedom of religion and the exercise thereof. We also appeal to our churches and the public to join us in prayers for the dismissal of these charges and the continued safety of those involved in ministry with the marginalized groups and internally displaced persons.  

03 May 2021

Signed:

REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.

Chairperson

RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES

Vice-Chairperson

DRA. GAY B. MANODON

Vice-Chairperson

MS. CATHERINE KAY F. ALMARIO

Vice-Chairperson

BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA

General Secretary