Primate of the Philippines calls for the immediate release of Sarah Abellon-Alikes
Church leaders in the Philippines have urged the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to return to the negotiating table with communist guerillas after talks broke down on 3 Feb 2017.
President Duterte ordered the arrest of rebel leaders following the collapse of negotiations aimed at ending the five decades old civil war that has killed an estimated 40,000 Filipinos. On of the alleged rebel leaders arrested last week was Sarah Abellon-Alikes, daughter of the former Presiding Bishop of the Philippine Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Richard Abellon.
The current Presiding Bishop of the Philippine Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Renato Abibico stated that Sarah Abellon-Alikes had been arrested in Baguio City in Northern Luzon on 9 Feb 2017. She had been detained “without a warrant of arrest by members of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)” and had been charged with arson “in connection with the burning of dump trucks owned by Philex Mines in the morning of February 9th at Ampacao Central, Itogon, allegedly by members of the NPA.”
The NPA, New People’s Army, is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and follows a Maoist ideology, seeking to overthrow the Pacific nation’s government. Since 1969 the NPA has been engaged in a guerilla war in the countryside against the government and is estimated to field approximately 3,200 soldiers along with several thousand more sympathizers.
President Duterte ended peace talks with the NPA this month following the ambush of an AFP patrol in the Southern Philippines that left six dead. “From now on I will consider the [NPA] a terrorist group,” he told reporters.
Human Rights activists have urged the immediate release of Ms. Abellon-Alikes, saying she is not an NPA cadre. “Sarah is incapable of doing this crime” said Bishop Elorde Sambat of United Church of Christ in the Philippines. “She has been in development work all her life,” he added, noting he worked closely with on on the board of directors of the disaster relief charity Kaduami (Katinnulong Daguitti Umili iti Amianan Inc.).
Bishop Abibico said he could not “connect Sarah’s participation in this burning incident as I believe that she is incapable. Her physical appearance proves that.” He further stated that through her work with KADUAMI she was “actively involved in programs that are aimed at enhancing the capabilities of marginalized communities to seek meaningful and lawful alternatives to improve their lives. In her participation in the programs of KADUAMI Sarah has never been charged of any crime.”
The arrest of Sarah Abellon-Alikes was “just one of the long litanies of stories happening in this nation related with human rights issues where due process and human rights are given no respect at all by those who are supposed to implement and protect it. Hers is a showcase that anyone can be vulnerable,” the leader of the Anglican church in the Philippines said.
He called on the army and government to “release Sarah immediately, we also call on the government and its functionaries to stop human rights violations.”
“We further call on our President Rodrigo Duterte and the NDF-CPP to give the peace talks a chance in the midst of the current events. We believe that genuine and lasting peace cannot be achieved by the barrel of the gun but by a serious concern to address peacefully the root causes of the problems that pestered the soul of this nation for decades,” the Filipino primate said.