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Faith-based human rights defender slain in Negros Oriental

A lay member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Negros Oriental was gunned down on July 7. Salvador Romano, who was an adviser of the youth organization of the Church, was shot by unknown assailants at Brgy. Poblacion, Manjuyod town using a .45 caliber gun.

Romano was on his way home from the church when the assailants fired at him. The victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds and pronounced dead on arrival at Bais City District Hospital. His assailants immediately fled. Four .45 caliber empty shells were recovered at the crime scene.

Negros Oriental incoming Bishop Allan Caparro expressed condemnation over the killing of Romano. “We lost a true Christian prophet with the killing of Salvador Romano, someone who stands with the deprived and marginalized in their struggle for human dignity, and justice and peace,” Caparro said.

Bishop-elect Caparro laments that Romano became the 5th member in the IFI Diocese of Negros Oriental to fall victim to extra-judicial killings in a span of 4 months.“ The violence that has been targeting human rights defenders is spreading unchecked throughout the island of Negros, and now has taken the lives of 5 Aglipayans in our diocese,” he said.

In March 2019, 14 farmers in Negros Oriental were killed in an alleged police anti-criminality campaig, 4 of which were members of the IFI. The massacre was strongly denounced by various rights groups.

Karapatan Central Visayas condemned the killing of Romano, who was the rights group’s coordinator in Negros Oriental, and called for justice for his death. The group said Romano is the 69th human rights defender killed in the Negros island under the Duterte government.

The Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) has condemned the killing of Romano. “Human rights defenders serving and working with underprivileged individuals and communities are in a race against death with the unabated extrajudicial killings occurring across the country,” RPRD executive director Fr. Jonash Joyohoy said. “Faith-based human rights defenders, like Salvador Romano, were being attacked and killed,” he added.

RPRD said the epidemic of attacks and killings against human rights defenders must be put to a stop. “The threat they face is so horrifying and they need protection from the remorseless violence transpiring all throughout the country,” Fr. Joyohoy said.

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