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Letter on abductions in the Philippines

11 February 2010

To:
President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Office of the President
The Philippines

Geneva, 11 February 2010

Your Excellency,

It is with deep concern that the World Council of Churches (WCC) received a report of the arrest of Dr Alex Montes, a church worker for the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and official of the Community Medicine Development Foundation as well as 42 other health workers by the Philippines Army and the Philippine National Police.

I am distressed by the reported news that the detainees have been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment amounting to torture and that they have been deprived of their basic human rights while in custody. Dr Alex Montes, a committed church worker has been a long-time staff of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, which is a member of the WCC world-wide fellowship of churches. The WCC has a strong association with the UCCP and its leadership and in that capacity I am familiar with the activities of the church. Dr Montes who served as the coordinator of the Health Mission of the Christian Witness and Service programme of the UCCP was instrumental in developing community-based health programmes of the UCCP Visayas Community Medical Center in Cebu City. It is therefore more than unfortunate that Dr Alex Montes’ and his coworkers were arrested and detained while they were involved in legitimate activities of humanitarian services as part of their Christian witness. 

In these circumstances, Your Excellency, the WCC calls for the respect of the human rights of Dr Alex Montes and the 42 other detained health workers, including their rights to legal counsel, access to visitors, and due process, as guaranteed by the Philippines Constitution and international human rights Instruments to which the Philippines is a signatory. I urge the authorities to ensure the immediate release of Dr Montes and his co-workers.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary
World Council of Churches 

cc:
Atty. Agnes Devanadera, Secretary, Department of Justice
HE Norberto Gonzales, Secretary, Department of National Defense
Atty. Leila De Lima, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, General Secretary, UCCP
Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process