Priests remember martyred bishop, victims of extrajudicial killings

The clergy of the Diocese of Negros Oriental and Siquijor marked the 13th martyrdom anniversary of Bishop Alberto Ramento through a paralegal training and workshop jointly facilitated by the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) and Karapatan Central Visayas, at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew’s the Apostle in Dumaguete City, on October 1-2, 2019.

The two-day paralegal training and workshop commenced with a memorial service for Bishop Ramento. Negros Oriental and Siquijor Bishop Allan Caparro said Bishop Ramento serves as an inspiration for his clergy in their continuing work and witness for the Gospel.

Model of faith

“Bishop Ramento is a shining example of a priest and pastor that lived-out his faith in a visible way, in his relentless support to marginalized communities and impassioned work for social justice,” Bishop Caparro said.

Bishop Ramento was murdered inside his church in Tarlac City on October 3, 2016. He was an outspoken critic of the government and a staunch supporter of the peasants’ struggle in Central Luzon. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente believes Bishop Ramento was a victim of politically motivated killing.

“We hope to emulate Bishop Ramento’s faith. As clergy, our faith moves us to take a stand for the sanctity of human life and dignity against the violence that now prevails in Negros Oriental. We do this even as we mourn for members of our diocese who have fallen victims of extrajudicial killings,” Bishop Caparro said.

Lay people killed

In July 2019, three lay members of the Diocese of Negros Oriental and Siquijor were killed following allegations of being supporters of the communist movement in Negros islands.

Among those killed were siblings Arthur Bayawa and Ardale Bayawa. They were shot multiple times by unidentified assailants who barged into their home in Hibaiyo, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on July 25.

Diocesan National Priest Organization (NPO) Deputy Governor Fr. Jemer Morales expressed alarm over the worsening human rights situation in the province of Negros Oriental. “Civilian activists are killed by the hundreds with the widespread belief about the police and military’s involvement,” the priest said.

“Arthur and Ardale were killed in the most gruesome way. Not so surprisingly, the police have not conducted any investigation until now despite the macabre crime,” Fr. Morales lamented. “Only human rights organizations took interest into their killings,” he added.

Salvador Romano, a church youth leader in Manjuyod, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen on July 7. He was on his way home from the church when his unknown assailants fired multiple shots at him.

Romano was the chairperson of the parish’s social concern committee at the time of his death. He was a human rights advocate and a member of Karapatan, a human rights organization accused of being a communist legal front by the government.

Fr. Eberson Pasilan, parish priest of Manjuyod, said Romano mentioned about receiving death threats to some members of the congregation prior to his killing. “We lost a competent and committed church worker with his death,” the priest said.

The congregation of Manjuyod parish is calling for justice for Romano’s murder. “We hope justice is rendered for Salvador and that those behind his death be hold accountable for the crime they have committed” Fr. Pasilan added.

Bishop Caparro has strongly condemned the killings. He said his diocese has been at the receiving end of violent attacks. “Beside Arthur, Ardale and Salvador, there were other four peasants members of Hilaitan parish who were killed in what is said to be a counter-insurgency operations in December 2018,” the Bishop recalled.

Search for justice

“As we pray for justice for the killing of Bishop Ramento, we also remember our members who were killed in our midst. We pray justice dawns on them and for the many innocent others who were falsely accused and murdered,” Bishop Caparro said.

The Diocesan NPO adopted a resolution effecting the creation of a fact-finding mission that will look into the killing of the three lay members. The clergy suspect the possible role of state forces in the killing following widespread allegations about state security agents’ involvement in the killings of civilians and activists in the context of the government’s counter-insurgency operations in the entire Negros islands.

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