UCA News

Philippines

Philippines tags church, aid groups as 'communist fronts'

Accused organizations include Oxfam and the Protestant National Council of Churches group

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: November 06, 2019 09:25 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Philippines tags church, aid groups as 'communist fronts'

Catholic nuns join a candlelit march in Manila on Nov. 5 to protest against alleged attacks against church workers and human rights activists. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Share this article :
Several church and humanitarian groups in the Philippines have been declared "communist fronts" by the military during a security briefing in Manila.

Among 18 organizations listed as "communist terrorist group front organizations" were the Protestant group National Council of Churches in the Philippines and international aid organization Oxfam.

Also included were the Gabriela Women's Party, the non-government Farmers Development Center, and the tribal organization Cordillera People's Alliance.

The Nov. 5 briefing came days after a crackdown against activist and human rights groups in capital Manila and the city of Bacolod in the central Philippines.

It was given by defense and military officials who were providing an update on the country’s security situation and the military's modernization program for Lower House legislators.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they based their conclusions from documents they had recovered in military operations across the country.

"It was [Jose Maria Sison] himself who said during one of the videos we saw: 'These are the front organizations.' That’s our basis. We did not make this up," said Lorenzana.

Sison is the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines who has been living in exile in the Netherlands.

'Attack on Christian faith'

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines said its inclusion on the list was an "attack on our Christian faith and traditions."

In a statement, the Protestant organization said it "vehemently condemns the malicious and careless tagging by the Armed Forces of the Philippines."

"We will remain resolute in our prophetic witness and service to the people even in the midst of shrinking democratic space and rising impunity," it added.

Oxfam, which has been working in the Philippines for the past 30 years, also denied the allegation.

"If our vision and mission in the Philippines have led to Oxfam being labeled a local communist terrorist group or a funder of communist terrorist groups, then we find this a most troubling situation," it said in a statement.

"These allegations affect not only us but also put the communities and partners we work with at risk." 

The group said organizations like Oxfam "should be encouraged, rather than hindered" in countries where there is poverty.

On Nov. 5, religious leaders in Manila held a march to protest against what they described were a rising number of attacks on government critics.

"We cannot allow injustice to rule our land," said Franciscan priest Angel Cortez, spokesman of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. "The Church and the people have to stand together and speak up despite the intimidation and harassment." he said.

He said church people were being persecuted "because we stand for victims of injustice."

"Activists and church people have one thing in common. We both serve the poor, the oppressed, and we amplify the voice of the most abandoned," said the priest.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."