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Philippine protestants upset over vandalized premises

Spray painted slogans impugn their reputation

Philippine protestants upset over vandalized premises

A slogan near the headquarters of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines in Manila (photo by Joe Torres)

Joe Torres and D'Jay Lazaro, Manila

June 20, 2013

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The country's major Protestant churches today decried what they described as "acts of vilification" of groups, institutions, including church organizations "that seek to be of loving service to the poorest of the poor."

The claims came in a statement issued after unknown individuals spray painted slogans in front of the main offices of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the nearby United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Quezon City this week. The slogans demanded justice for the victims of a massacre in 1989 in Digos by the Communist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) that killed dozens of people, including women and children.

The slogans read "Stop Armed Struggle," "Justice for the Digos massacre victims," and "UCCP/NCCP stop babying NPA."

The UCCP and NCCP represent millions of Protestant Christians across the country, and some of their members were among those killed in the 1989 massacre, which the NPA later admitted was a mistake.

In the wake of the massacre, right wing groups such as the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy accused the UCCP, which is known for its outspoken criticism of rights violations committed by Philippine military, of being too left-leaning and sympathetic to insurgent groups.

Fr Rex Reyes Jr, NCCP secretary general, said the organization is "saddened by... innuendos and malicious imputations on our institutions."

He said attempts to tarnish the image of church groups working for the poor are "deplorable, irresponsible, and lack moral decency." 

The Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR), a national alliance of church-based groups, expressed alarm over what they call a “smear campaign.”

"This is a clear manifestation of the intent to vilify church institutions who are actively involved in social issues and public witnessing," said Nardy Sabino, general secretary of the PCPR. 

He said linking churches and church personnel with armed groups to discredit church advocacies "is already a familiar method."

"This is a usual approach of militarist-minded people and groups who benefit from the oppressive and exploitative system," Sabino said.

He said vilification campaigns against individuals and organizations have been part of the government's counter-insurgency plan that aims to harass and silence vocal government critics.

"This cowardly act and desperate move meets the objective of maintaining the status quo," Sabino told  "We challenge whoever is behind this smear campaign to come forward and make public their identity," he said.

The NCCP and the UCCP called on the authorities to immediately remove the "vandalism" near their national offices.

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