Thousands marched in Manila to commemorate International Human Rights Day on Sunday, December 10, in protest to the spate of killings and increasing human rights violations in the country under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Church people who joined the protest raised their concerns over the killing of church ministers allegedly by state forces. A pastor and a priest fell victims to extrajudicial killings days before the commemoration of human rights day.
On December 3, Evangelical Pastor Lovelito Quiñones was shot in the chest by elements of the military Regional Mobile Group (RGM) in Oriental Mindoro who claimed he was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The following day, December 4, Catholic priest Father Marcelito Paez was shot in Nueva Ecija after facilitating the release of a detained political prisoner. Father Paez was a national board member of the Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a group that works with peasants and indigenous peoples.
Redemptorist priest Fr. Oliver Castor, RMP spokesperson, decried the killing of Fr. Paez. “We will carry on fighting against injustices and continue to serve as voices of the poor,”said the priest.
The National Priests Organization (NPO), an organization of priests of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), also condemned the killing of Pastor Quiñones and Fr Paez.
Fr. Jonash Joyohoy, who heads the organization, said that the killings “reveal the hands of fascism that are working to suppress the Church and betrays the continuing climate of impunity in the country.”
Joyohoy also expressed dismay on the continuing illegal detention of IFI Bishop Carlo Morales of the Diocese of Ozamiz in Mindanao.
Morales was arrested on May 11 and has been under military custody since then allegedly for collaborating with a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Father Dionito Cabillas, IFI priest and human rights worker of the Diocese of Manila, also condemned what he sees “as a systematic attack on church people,” saying that Duterte cannot just step on the people’s rights without any accountability.
(In photo: Redemptorist Father Oliver Castor holds a framed photo of Father Marcelito Paez, who was shot dead last week, as protesters in the background call for the release of a Philippine Independent Church bishop, Carlos Morales, and other political prisoners. (Mark Saludes/ucanews)