Christian Delegation Alleges Philippines Human Rights Violations

A Christian delegation has called for an investigation of the Philippines' human rights records, alleging it has killed, tortured and harassed communist rebels.

The statement came from the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia, who urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure the safety of civilians and carry out an impartial investigation, according to the Associated Press.

They also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels to end 30 years of insurgency. The delegation likened the government "pattern of killings" to those of former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The delegation, consisting of 13 members and seven Filipino Protestant church leaders visited and interviewed alleged victims of human rights violations from July 14-21. However, they did not enter areas controlled by Islamic separatist rebels, who have similarly accused the government.

"[We] are deeply concerned by the increase in human rights violations that have occurred during the last few years and in some way, the administration needs to be made accountable," said delegation member Rev. Stephen Sprecher of the United Methodist Church in the Unite States.

Bishop Per-Otto Gullaksen of the Church of Norway said that the government was alienating a majority of poor Filipinos.

"In its fight against terrorism, the army seems to be making enemies of the poor people," he said.

So far, 411 people have been executed outside of courts, in assassinations and in anti-insurgent operations since Arroyo took control of the government in 2001, according to the delegation, which cited leftist human rights group Karapatan. They also alleged that 130 had disappeared after being kidnapped, with 245 others being tortured by government forces.

The Philippine government's Commission on Human rights official Wilhelm Soriano said its own findings showed that the majority of victims were members of left-wing groups, but said others such as members of the military, government militias, or vigilantes were "not yet validated." He did not say how victims there were, according to AP.

The statement ended by offering consolation to the suffering people in the Philippines. The group commended victims on their persistance, courage and hope in the face of "grave injustices." Additionally, it vowed to advocate to bring and end to their plight.