MANILA, Philippines – Church groups, including the United Methodist Church (UMC), condemned North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza for threatening a UMC bishop who accommodated farmers protesting in Kidapawan.
In a letter Friday, April 1, Mendoza threatened to press charges against UMC bishop Ciriaco Francisco for “harboring” the protesters.
“Please be informed that your action of harboring these protesters is punishable by law. We might be constrained to take legal action against you unless you cooperate with us in addressing the issue formally and legally,” part of the letter read.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) criticized the letter, calling it a form of harassment.
“The letter is clearly a form of threat and harrassment to a shepherd of the flock, a pastor of the people who chose to side with the hungry, destitute, and oppressed in the ensuing protest of farmers affected by the long drought and government neglect,” PCPR general secretary Nardy Sabino told Rappler.
Rev Marie Sol Villalon, co-chairperson of the PCPR, also criticized the government for violently dispersing the drought protest. (WATCH: The drought protest that turned bloody in Kidapawan)
“We continue to stand with our United Methodist brothers and sisters in Kidapawan and in solidarity with the farmers and Lumad in their struggle to support themselves and provide for their families despite a government that continues to oppress them and favor the rich over the poor,” Villalon said.
Villalon called on the government to provide immediate relief to the farmers affected by the drought and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the bloody killings in Kidapawan.
“Rather than showing compassion and responding mercifully to their cry for help, ruthless elected officials and their state forces answered these poor citizens with callous disdain and brazen violence,” she said.
Meanwhile, UMC members abroad called out the government to respect their church in the country.
“As United Methodists, we demand that the sanctuary of our United Methodist churches be protected,” said Joy Prim, chairperson of the UMC California-Pacific Taskforce Philippines, adding “the human rights of all” should be upheld.
At least two farmers were killed and 116 others were wounded on Friday, April 1, when police dispersed a protest in Kidapawan City, authorities said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said 23 of the injured are protesters, while 93 are policemen.
The protesting farmers are asking for help from the government due to the effects of a drought in the area. – Rappler.com