Philippines government pushed on church and human rights killings

By staff writers
January 14, 2007

Raising deep concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines, US Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has responded to a letter from Avelino T. Razon Jr., deputy director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP), in which she challenges the Philippine government for not showing "any real success in ending extra-judicial killings."

Razon's letter, which sought to clarify statistics and offer assurances that the necessary action is being taken, "falls far short of providing an adequate response to what is clearly a grave problem within the Philippine government at this time," Jefferts Schori said.

Extra-judicial or political killings occur without the permission of a court or legal authority and are generally carried out by a State in order to rid itself of a disruptive influence. More than 700 such killings have been reported under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to the human rights alliance KARAPATAN, but Razon insisted that these numbers were erroneous.

The murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church, who was found stabbed to death at his Tarlac City rectory on the morning of October 3, prompted an outcry from Church leaders calling for an end to the spate of such killings. Ramento had been an outspoken critic of the Philippine government and received several death threats in the lead-up to his murder.

In citing Ramento's murder as one of many such incidents involving Christians in the country, Jefferts Schori noted that Church partners in the Philippines "remain skeptical and raise serious questions" about the Government's conclusions that identified robbery as the motive.

"In any country where such a serious human rights problem emerges, it is incumbent upon the government not only to investigate the murders, but to bring those responsible to justice, and to protect the people from future incidents," Jefferts Schori said.

"That does not appear to be happening consistently, and after consultation with leaders in Manila, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of our sisters and brothers who raise their voices for social justice at risk to their own lives," she added.

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