MANILA, Oct. 19, 2011—In snowballing protests against the seeming inaction of government to halt the spate of killings, church leaders and groups called on President Benigno Aquino to act decisively and put a stop on extrajudicial killings and bring to justice perpetrators of the crime.
The recent murder of PIME priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio has once again revealed the “culture of impunity” that has been prevailing in the country because of the government’s failure to provide protection and justice to human rights defenders, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said in a statement.
Pabillo, who also chairs the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, hit the government’s failure to bring murderers to justice.
He said families and friends of victims need more than just the government’s offer of “condolences” and “condemnation” of the crime.
“Families and friends [of victims] don’t need these futile words,” Pabillo pointed out, adding that “we desire to see these killings stop than be consoled by the platitudes they give in exchange of our grief.”
“No peace workers and human rights defenders should ever live in fear or shed blood because of what they believe in and what they stand for,” he added.
Tentorio was shot eight times by an assassin on October 17 as he was getting into his pick-up truck parked at the Mother of Perpetual Help Church compound in Arakan, North Cotabato.
Fr. Pops, as Tentorio was called by the locals, was a staunch advocate against mining and other extractive operations that threaten the indigenous people. He had been an inspiration to his parishioners as wells as the lumads who have been opposing activities that are harmful to the environment.
For his part, Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said Fr. Tentorio’s senseless killing “must wake us up in our slumber and passivity.”
“How many more people should die before we unite in putting an end to this culture of impunity?” he lamented.
Alminaza, head convenor of Visayas Clergy Discernment Group, in a separate statement called on the Aquino government to bring justice to Fr. Tentorio and other victims of human rights violations.
The Aquino government should distinguish itself from the previous administration, Alminaza said.
“Otherwise, its slogans of “straight path” will remain empty,” he added.
Fr. Tentorio’s murder, Alminaza said, is another number added to the more than 50 victims of extra-judicial killings since President Benigno Aquino III took office.
“His death strengthens our resolve to continue Christ’s work in building a society of justice and peace, even if it means giving the ultimate sacrifice for the common good,” the bishop said.
Meanwhile, the Good Shepherd Sisters of Mindanao and the RGS-WJPIC Mindanao Network also denounced the killing, calling it an “affront to peace.”
In a statement, the group called on the Aquino government “to stop the political killings in this country, to cease the operation of Oplan Bayanihan and to put an end to impunity and bring to justice the countless victims of extra-judicial killings.”
“We challenge the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Justice to conduct immediate investigation and prosecution of those responsible for this cowardly act,” the statement read.
Urging all Filipinos to join the Church-led “Justice for Father Fausto Tentorio Movement”, the group said the action will “release the flood gates of justice and integrity.”
“Fill the streets with marches and songs, prayer vigils, candle lighting and drum the beat for truth to come out free and victorious,” the group further said.
Fr. Fausto has served the diocese of Kidapawan for the past 33 years.
As a rural missionary and as an anti-mining advocate, he helped and worked with the indigenous peoples in opposing the operation of large-scale plantations and mining which would harm them. As a human rights advocate, he joined in calling for justice for slain human rights workers and farmers in Central Mindanao in 2002.
Despite threats to his life, he fearlessly persisted in the work for justice and peace. His martyrdom, in the words of Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, will “fan the daring and courage of those who care about peace and justice enough to sacrifice themselves.”
Other church groups including the NCCP, Philippine Misereor Partnership, Promotion of Church People`s Response (PCPR) and KALUMARAN, a group of indigenous people in Mindanao, joined the Catholic Church in condemning the senseless killing of Tentorio while demanding the Aquino government to stop the extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders. (CBCPNews)