UCCP seeks protection for red-tagged members
BY FRANCO JOSE C. BAROÑA
The Manila Times
THE United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) has asked the Supreme Court to grant protection to three of its members who had been tagged by the Philippine military as communists. The UCCP said in its petition filed before the high court on Monday that officers and enlisted men of the 59th Infantry Battalion (59IB) in Quezon and Batangas labeled Pastors Edwin and Julieta Egar and lay leader Ronald Ramos as supporters of communist rebels. It added that the allegations were made by the military “despite the utter lack of evidence, to be giving aid to communist insurgents.” In its 62-page petition, the Protestant group said “red-tagging” by the military brought fear and intimidation to its ministers. The three UCCP members said in the petition they were first approached on Oct. 31, 2022 by men who were introduced as personnel of the 59IB. They said the men accused them of being members of the New People’s Army and tried to convince them to surrender to the government. Another attempt to convince them to surrender was made on November 1. Ramos said he also received text messages “telling him that there was a malicious plan to plant evidence in his house to make it appear that he possessed firearms and explosives.” He added that he was also told that there was a plan to kill him in a staged shootout. “Now, the petitioners are living in fear wondering whether tomorrow will be their last,” the UCCP said, adding that its members have been receiving threatening text messages. “They are also yet to be able to return to their homes for fear that instead of residing in a safe haven, they would be endangering themselves more by being open targets for the respondents officers and enlisted personnel of the 59th IB,” it said. The UCCP said its petition for the writ of amparo seeks the protection of the Supreme Court over the two ordained pastors and a lay leader “who, because of their gospel work, spiritual ministry and compassion for the poor and the oppressed, are now facing threats to their own life, liberty and security.” The writ of amparo is a legal remedy available to anyone whose right to life, liberty and security is violated by a public official or employee. The petitioners asked the tribunal to prohibit generals of the Philippine Army and the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) and some members of the 59IB from being within one kilometer of the residence and work addresses of the religious group members. Named as respondents in the petition for writ of amparo were 59IB commander Lt. Col. Ernesto Teneza Jr. and enlisted men of the battalion. Also named respondents were Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and 2ID commander Maj. Gen. Roberto Capulong.