South-Central Luzon Bishops Conference and RPRD Board on the death threat received by Bishop Joselito Cruz, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Bishops.
We bishops in South-Central Luzon dioceses and members of the RPRD Management Board, during our meeting for the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD), together see the death threat against Bishop Joselito Cruz as harassment with very serious implications. The threat that comes with a warning for the good bishop not to go left parallels the red-tagging of Bishop Antonio Ablon and the legal persecution of Bishop Carlo Morales both of Mindanao. The red-tagging and harassment also came simultaneous with President Rodrigo Duterte’s public contempt against bishops and priests in the Roman Catholic Church who are yet to recover from pain having lost a number of fellow clergymen from assassins’ bullets in recent months.
The written threat with a coffin photograph presents real danger against the material body of the unprotected bishop. Living in an unguarded convent makes Bishop Cruz, Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Bataan and Bulacan and chairman of the Supreme Council of Bishops, an open target reminding us of former Obispo Maximo Alberto Ramento who was murdered inside convent in Tarlac City in 2006. These incidents imply that even servants of God can be disposed at whim under heightened state of violence and culture of impunity.
The warning not to go left also relates to the social ministry of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente that Bishop Cruz zealously observes. Ministry that follow the mandate of Jesus to bring good news to the poor, that should include the good news and hope of preventing by people’s action ecological disaster now posed by the planned 2,500-hectare aerotropolis in the province of Bulacan. Warning the bishop not to go left means ultimatum to stop bringing good news and refrain from speaking against the giant project just like fellow bishops and other faith-based advocates accused of rebellion for speaking against anti-people and anti-environment projects.
Thus the threat is also directed against the bishop’s right to peaceful exercise of religious practices especially during Advent when the Church calls for penitential observances including charity. Ultimately and as the most serious implication, the threat seeks death to spiritual life because distancing from the poor is akin to severing relationship from the God of love.
Deeply alarmed by the gravity of the threat and its implications, we raise the following calls:
– For President Duterte and other state authorities to do every means to reduce the incidence of violence and human rights violations in the country and thus eradicating threats against Church people. Allow Bishop Cruz, fellow Church people, and all believers peaceful observance of Advent;
– For dioceses and parishes especially in South-Central Luzon that they remain steadfast in prayer and service. We also call on faith-based human rights defenders in the IFI, clergy and lay alike, for them to show concern on the persecution and harassment being suffered by Bishop Joselito Cruz, Bishop Antonio Ablon, and Bishop Carlo Morales, by initiating and joining protest actions and make it known to perpetrators that prophets in the IFI are ever ready to raise fists and voices whenever human rights violations happen in our ranks and to other victims.
In behalf of South Central Luzon Bishops Conference,
Bishop Ronelio Fabriquier
Chairman, RPRD Management Board
Bishop Rowel Arevalo
Chairman, SCL Bishops Conference
December 5, 2018