Philippines Bishop Murdered Amid Concerns Over Military Death Squads

Thursday, October 5, 2006

By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Correspondent reporting from Manila

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife) -- There was concern about the Philippines’ security forces Wednesday, October 4, after a bishop of the Philippine Independent Church and a known human rights campaigner, was found dead with stab wounds at his office in a town north of the capital, Manila.

Human rights group Karapatan said it was a political killing, but local police claimed Bishop Alberto Ramento could have been the victim of a botched robbery.

The latest attack added to frustration of families of 700 leftist activists, farmers, students, community organizers and journalists who were killed since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Families of the victims have threatened to boycott a state-initiated inquiry into the killings and alleged abductions, saying it was designed to clear the military of any blame.


Last month, President Arroyo created a commission to examine the murders, after rights group Amnesty International said it was concerned the security forces could be involved.

It came as Christians and politicians mourned the death of Bishop Ramento. House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo told reporters that the church leader was found dead in the living room of his convent in Tarlac province early Tuesday, October 3. His body reportedly bore at least four stab wounds.

Ramento is the first high-ranking leader of the Church to fall victim to political killings under the Arroyo administration, observers said. Ocampo said Ramento’s killing was “another proof that the commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose AR Melo to investigate extrajudicial killings is a farce.”


"The death squads are unafraid of the commission because it serves their purpose… It provides a podium for generals to justify the continuing carnage of innocents through black propaganda masquerading as testimonies," Ocampo added.

Supporters of the bishop described him as "a man of peace and a staunch advocate of genuine land reform, and the Filipino workers and peasants cause." Ramento strongly opposed the spate of alleged politically motivated murders and a change from presidential to parliamentary form of government in the country.

Families of those murdered said the probe had given the military's chief of staff, General Hermogenes Esperon, and recently retired General Jovito Palparan, first priority to clear their names.

Esperon and Palparan, who have been called "The Butchers" by left-wing groups for allegedly instructing troops to assassinate peasant leaders, deny any military involvement in the killings and disappearances and say communist rebels are to blame. The government has been fighting those rebels for years. (With BosNewsLife News Center and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).

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