(SECOND UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — A pastor from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, who is also a leader of Bayan Muna, was abducted by armed men in front of his church shortly after a service in Binan, Laguna at around 6 p.m. tonight.
The Rev. Berlin Guerrero was abducted shortly after celebrating the anniversary of the UCCP, a Protestant congregation known for its anti-government positions on several issues.
Guerrero is based at the Union Theological Seminary in Cavite and is active in the ecumenical movement. He was also former secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Tagalog. Guerrero is a founding member of Bayan Muna and was among its initial leaders in the same region.
The UCCP and progressive groups like Bayan and Bayan Muna have scheduled a noise barrage at noon tomorrow to denounce Guerrero’s abduction. It will be held in front of the offices of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines along EDSA near Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.
Guerrero is just the latest of the several cases of abductions and forced disappearances of leftists and political activists. Elements of the military are believed to be behind these abductions, as part of the government’s extrajudicial crackdown on political dissenters.
Guerrero was abducted exactly a year after another UCCP member, Bayan Muna regional projects officer Noli Capulong, was assassinated last year, also in Laguna, in Calamba.
Bayan Muna congressman and House deputy minority leader Satur Ocampo urged authorities on Sunday to “immediately surface Berlin, and turn him over to his family, ministry and colleagues.” Ocampo is the author of a proposed law in Congress outlawing enforced disappearances.
“The Arroyo government must protect all citizens, regardless of political beliefs. Its security forces must not harm or kill its perceived political opponents,” Ocampo said in a statement. “President Arroyo is duty bound to order the AFP and the PNP to do everything so that Berlin and other desaparecidos are found alive, and see to it that the abductors are punished.”
Bayan Muna Secretary-General Nathanael Santiago, one of Berlin’s contemporaries in the student movement and in Bayan, “no reason is sufficient to warrant Berlin’s abduction. He is a people’s pastor, an activist who worked legally and peacefully.”
Santiago, who is also a UCCP pastor, said “Berlin’s abduction will revive and expand the global uproar of Christian churches and denominations which have earlier denounced the Arroyo government’s human rights record.”
In the late 1970s, Guerrero was elected the founding chairman of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines in the Southern Tagalog region and was involved in the campus-based “mosquito press” that helped to expose the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship. (davaotoday.com)