“Good intentions are not enough,” said the secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Justice, Leila de Lima, during a meeting with the World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation currently visiting the Philippines. She met with the “Living Letters” team on Dec. 3.

The group of church representatives from Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and Canada visited the Philippines Dec. 1-5 with the aim of looking at the current human rights situation in that country, where dozens of pastors have been murdered in recent years, allegedly by government-backed paramilitary groups.

They spoke with the justice secretary prior to an encounter with participants in a hunger strike supporting parties involved in the “Morong 43” case.

The Morong 43 have been detained since February following their arrest during a workshop sponsored by an alliance of health workers in Morong, Rizal province. Authorities have claimed the health workers possessed firearms and explosives, but the detainees insist the evidence against them was planted.

De Lima has presented arguments in favor of the detainees’ release, and she told the Living Letters delegation that she will issue a second memorandum soon restating her position in the hope that it will bring about a positive solution for the prisoners and their families.

She confirmed a report on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines suggesting that most such crimes committed this year have never been properly addressed. She stated her intention of forming a special commission of the department of justice with the mandate to investigate extra-judicial killings. “This will be a response to the many cases not given enough attention, and a way of breaking the culture of injustice that is prevails,“ she said.

De Lima continued, “The best intentions are there, but we need actions that will bring an end to all the human rights violations and extra-judicial killings.“

“We look for more international calls to pay attention to this current situation, for dialogues and international public statements of support in relation to the present human rights situation and all forms of injustice against the Filipino people,” the secretary of justice said at the conclusion of the meeting.

Some members of the delegation then visited the defendants in the Morong 43 case, who for the past 10 months have been detained in Camp Bagong Diwa.  

Aneth Lwakatare is a WCC communications department intern from Tanzania.