Killings of priest, peasant leader indicate thriving climate of impunity in PH

“When the Church stands up for the poor, its people become targets,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, referring to the killing of priest Fr. Mark Ventura in Cagayan yesterday, April 29, 2018.

Karapatan strongly denounces the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura at a gymnasium in Brgy. Pena Weste, Gattaran, Cagayan. The 37-year-old priest had just finished celebrating mass when armed assailants arrived and shot the victim twice. He was gunned down in front of children and choir members. Fr. Ventura heads the Migrants Desk of the Diocese of Tuguegarao. He was known for being an anti-mining advocate and for supporting indigenous communities in the area.

“The brutality with which the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura was executed reminds us of the thousands of Filipinos extrajudicially killed by this murderous regime. The scene with the lifeless body of Fr. Ventura on the floor, in front of the altar, with children having witnessed his cold-blooded murder, is indicative of a heinous, evil and wicked crime that highlights the cowardice of men in masks who thrive in the context of this fascist regime. The denial of people’s right to due process and blatant disregard for people’s lives is a trait consistent with the fascist character of this government and system,” said Palabay.

Last December 2017, 71-year-old Fr. Marcelito Paez was also gunned down after he helped facilitate the release of a political prisoner in Nueva Ecija.

“Though investigations are still ongoing, we cannot help but cast a doubt about the possibility that Fr. Ventura might have been targeted because of his stance as an anti-mining advocate and his work in indigenous communities. After all, these are among the reasons why people such as Fr. Marcelito Paez and many others from the church sector were targeted,” Palabay added.

The rights group also said that yesterday, a peasant leader was killed in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental. Jerry Turga, 56, and vice chairperson of Guinpanaan Farmers Association – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, was shot to death by four assailants. The Karapatan secretary general added that “like many leaders and members of KMP who have advocated for land rights, Turga has been killed because of his work.”

“We demand justice for the killing of Fr. Ventura, Jerry Turga, and the many others who were killed under this fascist regime. There is no doubt that there is a disturbing trend of church people being persecuted for their stance and involvement in human rights. Peasants, too, have been killed throughout regimes for organizing among their communities, and for actively struggling for genuine agrarian reform. We demand an end to these killings, as well as to the system that have made it ripe for such murderers to exist without fear of accountability nor regard for people’s rights,” concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580