Pastor’s case just the latest in string of abductions blamed on military

May. 28, 2007

MANILA, Philippines Saying the Rev. Berlin Guerrero had no enemy, activists in the Philippines today said they suspect the military to be behind the abduction of the pastor Sunday, the latest in a string of similar atrocities attributed to state security forces.

Armed men grabbed Guerrero in front of his church in Bian, Laguna minutes after a service. He was with his wife and three children when the abduction took place; they were unharmed. The pastor was shoved into one of the two white L300 vans that the kidnappers used. The vehicles had no license plates.

Guerrero, 40, a theology student of the Union Theological Seminary, is also an active member of the Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (Ecumenical Center for Development) and a former staff of the national office of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Aside from his ecumenical involvements, it appears that his involvement in Bayan Muna and Bayan Southern Tagalog made him a target of political repression, said Amie Dural, secretary-general of the Promotion of Church Peoples Response.

This morning, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a demonstration at the National Council of Churches of the Philippines on EDSA in Quezon City to demand Guerreros release.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said he suspects that state security forces were behind the abduction.

Pastor Berlin had no enemy. We hold the military forces of the Arroyo government accountable for the fate of Pastor Berlin and nearly 200 victims of enforced disappearances, said Dural of the PCPR.

No one but the armed forces of this corrupt government has openly labeled social activists and human rights defenders, including activist church members, as enemies of the state and, thus, targets for political persecution, she said.

Reyes, meanwhile, said that his group has monitored an increase in the number of what he called enforced disappearances.

Abductions and enforced disappearances are becoming more frequent, he said. We hold the Arroyo regime responsible for this latest crime. The administration has not reined in the military despite condemnation by the international community. The perpetrators must surface Pastor Guererro immediately, Reyes added.

Guerrero is the 197th victim of abduction under the Arroyo administrationMore than 20 activist pastors and lay members of the churches have been victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances under since 2001, according to human-rights groups said.

Recent victims of abduction include former political prisoner Lusia Dominado, Nilo Arado, Bayan chairman of Panay, and Jonas Burgos, son of press freedom fighter Joe Burgos, of Bulacan. Two poll watchers of the partylist group Kabataan were also abducted and later found dead in Camarines Norte.
In the case of Burgos, the plate number of the vehicle used in the abduction was traced to a military camp in Bulacan.

Responsibility for every activist abducted or killed lies squarely with the Arroyo regime, Reyes said. He said credible groups have established the patterns of killings and abductions which all show the involvement of the military. Why is it that up to now, the Arroyo government has not done anything significant to stop the military?

The recent abductions came just days after the Philippines was reelected to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Despite international condemnation on the killings and enforced disappearances, Dural said, the abduction of Guerrero occurred, which demonstrates the arrogance of the Arroyo government in continuing its policy of repression. (

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