Support for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and their Lenten Call
Care and compassion for the poor, do not arrest or shoot them
“A systematic distribution of food and other assistance are imperative right now. Again, our Lenten call, test more people and help the poor, do not arrest or shoot them,”
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary, National Council Churches (NCCP)
As partners of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), the United Church of Canada and KAIROS join the voices of churches and civil society groups in condemning the threats, intimidation and the arrest of 21 residents of the urban poor community of Sitio San Roque in Brgy. Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City. The residents were protesting along EDSA, a major highway servicing Manila and neighbour communities, demanding that the government ensure that these marginalized communities have food and shelter during the lockdown of Luzon in response to COVID -19. The protesters were violently dispersed by the police.
We support the statement released by the National Council Churches (NCCP) in which General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza states, “After listening to the President threaten the desperate and the hungry, as Christians, we insist that in this health crisis, care and compassion for the poor is what is needed. Callous remarks and threats are not what are needed right now, especially as Holy Week is fast approaching. What is needed is food.”
We further echo members of Karapatan, who said: “The homeless and the urban poor are bearing the brunt of this government’s continuing neglect of social services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They are facing threats both to their health and livelihood and they are being driven to mass hunger — but instead of addressing their urgent and legitimate demands for aid, the State is lightning quick to unleash ruthless violence and repression upon the people,”
Violence and mass arrests do not address COVID-19, nor mass hunger. In fact, they defeat the very purpose of social distancing if those arrested are taken to already over-crowded prisons. An outbreak of COVID-19 in any prison in the Philippines will be catastrophic.
Moreover, emergency declarations based on the COVID-19 outbreak should not be used as a justification to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals. These measures must not act as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health nor should it be used to silence the work of human rights defenders. Governments remain bound by international law and human rights standards.
We urge the Philippines government to adopt a human rights-based approach to regulating this pandemic, in order to facilitate the emergence of healthy societies with rule of law and human rights protections.
We join the call for Solidarity in Prayer and Action by the Philippines Faith Based organisation comprised of the National Council of Churches, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and their plea to government authorities that all essential dimensions of flattening Covid19 epidemic curve must include:
- Cohesive medical and health strategies;
- Comprehensive support to vulnerable families in quarantine; and
- Coherent planning and centralized incident command in the governance.