During the COVID-19 pandemic, the human rights crisis in the Philippines has been worsening, as civic space is shrinking, endangering free speech and the airing of legitimate political grievances in the public square. The new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 took effect on 18 July, replacing the Human Security Act of 2007. This new law legitimises unlawful arrests and detention, undermining the due process of law, and cancels all basic rights stipulated in the Philippine Constitution’s bill of rights guaranteeing to every Filipino basic and fundamental rights and liberties.
Prior to this, the Philippine government had been criticised by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights for its “overarching focus on public order and national security, including countering terrorism and illegal drugs.” With the new Act in place, these human rights violations have continued unabated, and church people have not been spared. Civil and political rights are violated, including the right to freedom of religion and to exercise ministry in furtherance of religious beliefs.
An appeal to the global ecumenical community for solidarity and accompaniment in human rights in the Philippines has been made by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice), co-sponsored by CWM and other partner organisations.
Through an online International Ecumenical Convocation on the Defence of Human Rights in the Philippines held on Thursday 17 September, partner organisations and churches are invited into a space of deep reflection and concrete action.
This convocation seeks to:
- Gather church leaders around the world to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people in their call to uphold human rights, seek peace, and enact justice.
- Collectively reflect on the effects and implications of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 – both in the Philippines and in the global promotion and protection of human rights – and offer an analysis and draw a common stand on the said law.
- Encourage churches around the world to lobby governments, especially the member states of the UN Human Rights Council, to press the Philippine government to take heed of the recommendations contained in the June 2020 report of the OHCHR, A/HRC/44/224, and explore other venues for accountability like the International Criminal Court.
- Launch a Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines that can be used to strengthen the advocacy of churches and other human rights advocates world- wide.
The event is co-sponsored by NCCP, EcuVoice, the ACT Alliance, The Asia Pacific Forum, Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Council for World Mission (CWM), International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), United Evangelical Mission (UEM), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), World Council of Churches (WCC), World Student Christian Federation (WSCF).