'Busy' Aquino Disappoints Church Group

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno S. Aquino III's failure to meet a visiting church dignitary has disappointed the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

Rev. Rex Reyes Jr., NCCP general secretary, said they find it unfortunate that the planned courtesy call of Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), on the President last Friday did not materialize because of the President's busy schedule.

"Dr. Tveit is very much aware of issues in the Philippines and while he would have raised certain concerns, he would have also conveyed support to the resumption of the formal peace negotiations," Reyes said in a statement.

"We tried to seek this audience between the visiting leader and the President hinged on his campaign promises," Reyes added.

He said Dr. Tveit is a Norwegian and is aware of the role of the Royal Norwegian Government on the peace process.

In an earlier dialogue with the WCC official, a group of victims of human rights violations and their families confirmed that human rights violations persist even under the Aquino administration.

They said the government is implementing Oplan Bayanihan, a counterinsurgency plan that targets and "eliminates" perceived enemies of the state who are civilians and unarmed.

The group requested the WCC to help lobby to the Philippine government to stop Oplan Bayanihan. A number of victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001 to the present belong to member churches of the WCC.

Tveit is in the country for the pre-assembly conference of the World Council of Churches' Commission for World Mission and Evangelism (WCC-CWME) which opened March 22 at the Traders Hotel in Manila.

The conference, which will run until March 27, brings together around 300 church leaders from around the world from various Christian traditions - Protestants, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, independent churches, Orthodox and Pentecostal Churches.

The pre-assembly aims to take a second look at mission and evangelism in the complex and difficult context. A draft was prepared by the CWME which is hoped to be adopted by this assembly. The final assembly paper would then be presented to the WCC General Committee before it is presented to the 10th General Assembly of the WCC to be held in Busan, South Korea, in 2013.