‘Fast, abstain from violence,’ religious superiors tell police, military

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) called on the police and military to “fast and abstain from doing violence” for the penitential season of Lent and beyond.

“Every day, more and more suspected drug addicts and pushers and perceived rebels and members of the CPP-NPA in their wars against addiction and terrorism are victimized by violence perpetrated by state agents, without even establishing their guilt through just and impartial investigations, without due process. Life has become so cheap. Shortcuts to dispensing justice has become the norm,” the AMRSP said.

The group, composed of the heads of Catholic religious congregations in the country, issued the statement on Friday, March 12, to condemn the killing of 9 Calabarzon activists on March 7, and of Calbayog Mayor Roland Aquino on March 8.

”What we witness today is the reign of violence, intolerance, hatred, and division. We are sure this is the handiwork of the devil himself. We cannot shirk our duty to combat evil in our midst,” their solidarity statement read.

AMRSP also called attention to the deportation of Dutch lay missionary and labor advocate Otto de Vries for his participation in political “rallies,” and the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s order to freeze all accounts of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a church group helping peasants, for allegedly “financing terrorist activities.” The RMP has denied this charge, and no court has designated them as a terrorist group.

“The spate of attacks on lawyers, social activists, media practitioners, human rights defenders and church people bear one indelible mark – it is meant to intimidate, harass, malign and snuff out dissent and freedoms of speech, assembly and association. It is meant to constrict democratic debates and shrink the civic space for social engagements and activism,” the statement read.

AMRSP has been at the forefront of defending human rights since the Martial Law years, when they established Task Force Detainees of the Philippines to assist political prisoners.

In August 2020, the AMRSP became the 30th petitioner against the Anti-Terror Law. They argued that the church’s aid to groups perceived as terrorists may lead to their persecution as well.

"The Church does not distinguish who it helps out, for as long as they are part of the marginalized sectors of society, helping the poor may be construed to mean giving assistance to terrorists," read a part of their petition. – Rappler.com