AMSTERDAM -The newly-founded Filipino Parish Council Netherlands (FPCNL) urged the Aquino government to stop the extrajudicial killings of members of the church.
The call was made by Rev. Father Cesar Taguba, chairperson of FPCNL during the memorial mass for murdered Bishop Alberto Ramento held in the Old Catholic Church in Amsterdam.
According to Taguba, at least 30 church workers and leaders had been killed from January 2001 to October 2011, most of them members of the United Methodist Church, Philippine Independent Church and United Church of the Christ in the Philippines.
He said one of the victims is Bishop Ramento, former Obispo Maximo of Iglesia Filipina Independiente and staunch critic of former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Ramento was stabbed to death in his rectory in Tarlac on September 2, 2006. The police ruled the incident as robbery with homicide.
The most recent victim of these killings against religious groups is Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio in North Cotobato.
“Investigate yung mga kaso, there are lots of documentation naman and it can stand in court. Let’s make use of our legal system to bring about justice and put a stop to this whole question of impurity,” said Taguba citing the report of United Nations’ human rights lawyer Philip Alston.
Taguba said that most of the killings were politically motivated because of the church involvement in the campaign for labor rights and anti-poverty drive.
“The worst is still to come. Sadly akala namin mahihinto na yung killings at the end of Arroyo government, pero, it seemed na yung patakaran which caused the death of many (church members) is still intact,“ said Taguba in an interview with Balitang Europe.
In June 2011, UCCP filed charges against Arroyo at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for the alleged extra judicial killings during her administration. Taguba hopes that this will pave the way for justice for the killed church members.
In his book Catholicity in Times of Globalization, Rev. Father Dr. Peter Ben Smit of the Old Catholic Church Amsterdam discussed Ramento's case and the challenges that church workers face in the modern Catholic world. Smit worked with Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independence Church) in Pampanga and personally witnessed several death threats to his colleagues.
“There is clearly a danger to those church members who do not have protection and are not afraid to speak out. From what I’ve seen and heard of, for example the children of priests are being sent text messages, we will kill your father or your father is dead. These caused a lot of stress to the children. Men and women receive direct death threats by text message, by email or by having bullets sent to their homes in an envelope, you will be next.”
Smit also said that if the government wants to maintain the support of its citizens, they should investigate and prosecute the perpetrators in a transparent way.