Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Episcopal Church challenges extra-judicial killings in the Philippines

Human rights violations in the Philippines, in particular the abduction of Episcopalian James M. Balao, have been addressed in US-based Episcopal Church testimony sent to the United States House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations and Sub-Committee on State Foreign Operations.

The Rev Canon Brian Grieves, the Episcopal Church's senior director for Mission Centers, and Alexander D. Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the church’s government relations office, submitted the testimony, this month outlining the Episcopal Church's concern for the continuing widespread human rights abuses in the Philippines, where extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances have been commonplace under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's presidency.

Extra-judicial killings and abductions occur without the permission of a court or legal authority and are generally carried out by a government in order to rid itself of a disruptive influence.

More than 900 such killings have been reported since Arroyo was sworn in as president in 2001, according to the human rights alliance KARAPATAN.

There have been 193 victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance under the Arroyo government.

Balao, who was abducted in September 2008, is a founding member of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA), a federation of grassroots organizations dedicated to the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples' rights.

"Over the past three years, the military has been publicly denouncing the CPA as a 'front organization' for the Communist party and accusing James of being a leader in the Communist party in the Cordilleras," the testimony notes. "As a result, CPA members are being assassinated, forcibly abducted, and tortured."

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