Statement of solidarity on the human rights situation in the Philippines
Online Forum on Church People’s Prophetic Stance Against State Terrorism
Ecumenical Human Rights Advocacy Network for the Philippines
16 September 2020
Good evening from Sydney, Australia!
My name is Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta and Chair of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service.
I am honoured to take part in this forum and to hear the cry of the oppressed via the voices of their advocates.
On behalf of the Diocese of Parramatta in Western Sydney, which has the highest concentration of Catholics of Filipino descent in Australia, I wish to express my solidarity with the people of the Philippines as they struggle for justice, human rights and the rule of law in their own country.
I join with my fellow bishops, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of Manila, Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and other leaders in condemning acts of violence and terror that have escalated in intensity and frequency. These acts are even more deplorable when committed by the government institutions such as the police and the military, which are supposed to protect and defend the people.
Under the Duterte government’s war against drugs, a spate of extrajudicial killings has continued unabated, causing a reign of terror in many communities. It is alarming that the poor are most vulnerable to the loss of life, as well as the destruction, violation and suppression of their rights. The government’s claim of ensuring and protecting those who have less in life appears to be merely a lip service when the State itself violates and disregards the rights of the poor. It seems like this is not so much a war against drugs but rather a war against the workers, farmers and the marginalised in society.
I am also deeply concerned and outraged at the framing of any kind of activism or holding opinions contrary to those of the government, as an attempt to overthrow the government. Leaders such as lawyers, human rights defenders and bishops, priests, nuns, and other religious leaders who have been charged with sedition and accused of terrorist links for speaking truth to power. The Philippines will not be seen as a democratic nation while this is the response to raising legitimate concerns or simply holding opinions that are different from those of the government.
I stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Philippines who have been accused of sedition and face imprisonment. The ongoing persecution of those who defend human rights, who call out criminal actions or who seek to protect their lands, together with the religious and political leaders who stand with them must cease. The best response to dissent in a community is to address legitimate grievances. This would show a commitment by the government to work in the best interests of all its citizens, building up the common good.
On behalf of my fellow bishops in Australia, I call upon political decision makers in Australia to commit themselves to the respect of human rights in the Philippines. We share the fundamental concerns of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and support their firm advocacy for justice.
I join the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines in praying for my brothers Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr and Bishop Honesto Ongtioco as they face sedition charges. As they themselves say: “Prayer is our best weapon against every evil. Prayer is power.” Let us pray that the government officials who are involved in processing the cases filed against these bishops – and so many others – will be guided a deep sense of fairness, justice, and truth.
May the prayers and expressions of solidarity and communion of the Catholic people of Australia join with those of the people in the Philippines in bringing an end to violence, injustice and oppression, and a new era of hope for all.
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta, Australia
Chair of Bishops Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference