Statement of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum: Vestiges of Martial Law

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), the fellowship of bishops from the United Church of Christ (UCCP), United Methodist (UMC), Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and the Roman Catholic Churches in the Philippines lament the deployment of elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in urban areas in the country. It is another nail hammered on the flailing limbs of freedom in this country.

There is no justification for their presence in these areas at this time. The AFP is called to defend this country from aggression and armed rebellion. The police force should suffice for preserving the peace in our communities. No country claiming to be democratic alows its soldiers to roam around communities in full battle gear. No country claiming to be free allows its soldiers to engage in partisan politics. Even civic functions which military officials claim soldiers perform in these communities are best left in the hands of other government agencies and other non-government organizations.

There is reason to believe that the deployment of troops in urban areas is directed at suppressing the support of the communities to principled and progressive party list groups. and this is being carried out through intimidation and harassment. This is the antithesis of the principle of inviting all to be involved in the political process rather than open rebellion. It smacks of covetousness where those who wield power are evidently after their own political survival and thus twist the definition of democracy to suit their ends. It further shows that under the current state of affairs, the military despite its denial continue to hold its sway over civilian rule. These are vestiges of martial law, a state President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted to impose were it not for the vigilance of the citizenry.

The diversity of political opinions and political leanings and the respect thereto is the essence of a matured political system. A matured political system ensures the enjoyment of political rights. This is part of human dignity which the state is bound to nurture.

The EBF thus calls on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to order the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from these urban areas. At the same time, we urge the people to remain focused in the preservation of whatever freedom we have gained - to live neither in fear nor under the barrel of the gun. Let us not be deceived into thinking that peace comes through the exercise of military might. Peace in our country comes when the roots of poverty and all those that breed unrest are addressed properly. Let us not lose sight of the hope that God has given us through the resurrection of our Lord - that the lowly shall achieve full liberation one day, both as a result of the burning desire to be free from all that bind them in misery and God's loving and abiding evidence.



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