by Rey Lopez, CPT Reservist
In early 2001, the Union Theological Seminary (UTS), owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCC-P), declared itself a refuge (kanlugan) to those who are marginalized and persecuted.
The seminary, which has a 97-hectare (240-acre) campus in Cavite, south of Manila, first welcomed some Mangyans (tribal minorities) from the Island of Mindoro who left their communities due to extreme militarization.
Soon, UTS became a haven for other displaced farmers forced to leave their provinces because of military operations. That's when the Philippine military started to monitor the seminary.
In 2006, during UTS's commencement exercises, a UCC-P pastor and the husband of a UMC pastor were abducted, tortured and released after 28 hours. They reported being questioned about the presence of the farmer refugees inside the seminary.
Then on May 27, 2007, UCC-P pastor and UTS student, Rev. Berlin Guerrero, was abducted while leaving his church assignment in Calamba, Laguna. He was heavily tortured by the military. They falsely accused him of being a commander in the New People's Army (the armed wing of the communist party of the Philippines) and charged him with murder. He has languished in a provincial jail in Cavite for over a year.
Fearing more abductions, seminary administrators temporarily closed UTS as a political refuge. Students hope that some sort of international protective presence could help the seminary once again serve as a safe haven to those fearing for their lives.
Two previous CPT delegations to the Philippines have visited UTS and the CPT Affinity Group based there. The next delegation is scheduled for February 2009.
Please send e-mails and faxes to Philippine authorities asking for the immediate formation of an independent investigation team comprised of representatives from church and human rights groups, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the abduction, torture, unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention of Pastor Berlin Guerrero.
- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; President of the Republic; Fax: 011-632-742-1641; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hon. Raul M. Gonzalez; Secretary, Department of Justice; Fax: 011-632-521-1614; e-mail: email@example.com