“Everyone should be alarmed over and must rightly condemn the killings of 3 IFI lay workers within the span of 2 months,” lamented Revd Jonash Joyohoy.
Joyohoy, who is the Executive Director of the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD), said these killings reflect the conflicts and the overarching culture of impunity in the country.
The felled lay workers of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente include Melinton Catampongan, Erning Aykid and Segundo Malig-on Jr.
Catampongan was the chair of the town chapter of Nagkahiusang Maguuma sa Surigao del Norte (United Farmers in Surigao del Norte). He was a parish council member, laymen officer, chorister, and former lay reader and evangelist in Alegria parish, Surigao Diocese. Catampongan was shot dead on July 10 by two motor-riding assailants wearing bonnets.
Aykid is a Mangyan from Benli, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro murdered in Sept. 15. He was a lay minister and key person in the IFI Mission to the Mangyans, an indigenous community in Oriental Mindoro.
Bishop Ronelio Fabriquier of Romblon and Mindoro Diocese said Aykid had been questioned by the military about his affiliation with the New People’s Army (NPA), as Benli has been a rebel hotspot.
Malig-on Jr. died from multiple gunshot wounds on Sept. 20. He was a councilor of Labo village in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental; and a former parish officer and member of the laymen’s sector of Labo parish. He was shot to death outside his home by two unidentified men, who fled in a motorcycle. Insight from the community connects his death to politics.
The three adds on to the cases of disturbing deaths, among documented reports of persecution of human rights defenders among members of the IFI.
Bishop Carlo Morales of Ozamiz Diocese continues to languish in jail on account of fabricated charges lodged against him and National Democratic Front consultant Rommel Salinas.
RPRD calls on the government to stop harming the weak and vulnerable. Joyohoy laments the trivialization of human rights, continuing impunity and reign of violence in the country.
“The escalating violations to the inherent dignity of life, however, gives us purpose to work harder for peace based on justice, no matter the odds,” added Joyohoy.