Faith and Spirituality

Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero, defender of the poor, dies at 81

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero, defender of the poor, dies at 81

ACTIVISM. Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero is seen joining a SONA rally in this 2017 video published by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Screenshot from NCCP

Bishop Solito Toquero of the United Methodist Church ‘was a beacon of light to poor and struggling communities,’ says the National Council of Churches in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero, a religious leader known for defending the poor and oppressed, died at the age of 81 on Friday, December 1.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the country’s largest group of Protestant churches, confirmed Toquero’s death in a Facebook post on Saturday, December 2. Toquero was vice president of the NCCP from 2008 to 2011.

In a statement, the NCCP described Toquero as an “exemplar of the ecumenical movement,” which seeks to foster deeper ties between Christian churches.

“Bishop Toquero was a beacon of light to poor and struggling communities and a strong and prophetic voice for institutions, churches, and organizations where he served. As a true shepherd of God’s people, Bishop Toquero was ever-compassionate and ready to be of service to the people,” the NCCP said.

“We will miss his captivating and wisdom-filled stories and impeccable smile. Through his guidance, insight, and selfless devotion, he touched countless lives and inspired many to walk the path of faith, righteousness, and prophetic witnessing,” the NCCP said.

Toquero served as bishop of the United Methodist Church from 2001 to 2008.

The United Methodist Church, which lists more than 12 million members worldwide, is a 55-year-old church that traces its roots to the Methodist movement by John and Charles Wesley in 1730. Methodism was a movement that aimed for internal reforms in the Church of England.

The United Methodist Church has more than 300,000 members across the Philippines, according to statistics provided by the Office of the Bishop of the Manila Episcopal Area in 2017. It is known for speaking out on sociopolitical issues, as when the church condemned the killings in then-president Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

Toquero himself is known for his activist stance. In February 2020, Toquero, as chair of the board of trustees of policy research group Ibon Foundation, joined the group’s executive director Sonny Africa in filing a complaint against three Duterte government officials for red-tagging progressive organizations. 

Narito ako dahil ako ay naniniwala sa karapatang pantao na kailangan ng bawat isa (I am here because I believe in the human rights needed by all),” Toquero said in a 2017 rally in time for Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), noting that he had been marching on the streets since the time of dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Toquero said Jesus himself, by angrily cleansing the Temple during his time, showed that Christians need to side with the poor and those on the peripheries. “Iyon ang misyon ng Panginoong Hesus at iyon ang misyon ng Iglesia (That is the mission of the Lord Jesus and that is the mission of the Church),” he said in the 2017 SONA rally.

In 2008, Toquero criticized the graft and corruption under then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Toquero asked, “What has happened to the ‘only Christian country in Asia’?” 

Born in Nueva Ecija on May 31, 1942, Toquero finished his bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan University-Philippines and his divinity degree, magna cum laude, at Union Theological Seminary-Philippines. He obtained his doctor of ministry degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indiana. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email