(Kowloon Union Church statement on Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines).
Promote Life, Not Death, in the Philippines
August 20, 2019
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation, a predominantly Christian nation. The Christian faith calls its followers to respect life, to nurture life; the Christian faith holds life to be sacred. Other faiths in the Philippines, such as Islam and the spirituality of indigenous people, affirm the same values. Thus, why are there so many killings in the Philippines, especially extrajudicial killings by state forces? Does the government not respect the lives of its own people? Are the leaders of the Philippine government not Catholics, not Christians? Where is their faith?
In this climate of death over the years, we are thus saddened by the recent news of 15 community leaders and a lawyer killed on Negros Island in the span of just five days between July 23 and 28. They join the list of 14 peasants killed on Negros on March 30 this year as well as others. Moreover, we are saddened by the extrajudicial killing of a church leader, the Rev. Ernesto Estrella of the United Church of the Philippines (UCCP), on August 2 in North Cotabato Province on the island of Mindanao. Other recent victims include Alex Lacay and Jeffrey Bayot, Lumad farmers, on August 9 and August 11, respectively, in Bukidnon Province.
What do these victims have in common? Most of them were poor; most of them sought to serve their communities; most of them raised their voices to uphold their rights and the rights of others. Is it a crime in the Philippines to be poor, to serve one’s community, to seek the rights that every person has because they are a human being and a child of God?
These deaths also have another common denominator: no one is arrested. Thus, while it is apparently a crime in the Philippines to be poor, to serve one’s community and to seek to uphold one’s rights, it is apparently not a crime in the Philippines to kill another human being.
To indicate its willingness to stop these senseless killings, we as people of faith in Hong Kong call upon the Philippine government to invite members of the international community—specifically the relevant special rapporteurs of the U.N. human rights system—to visit the Philippines to investigate these killings. If the government has nothing to hide, it should be willing to support and cooperate with the international community to stop these killings of the Filipino people.
It is because we treasure the life of all people that we call upon the Philippine government to ensure the arrest of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, to proclaim to the world that justice is still alive in the Philippines, that life still has value in this predominantly Christian nation. The role of the Philippine government is to serve its people, to protect its people, not to kill its people.
As people of faith in Hong Kong, we express our love and compassion for the victims of this violence and their families, and we add our solidarity with others around the world for the church leaders and activists who are struggling for human rights, for justice and for the dignity of their people.