Church leaders slam killings of colleagues

Cebu City, Philippines - Church leaders, from various religious denominations, yesterday condemned the killings of their colleagues in various parts of the country while they blamed the government for letting these happen.

In a press conference at the Cendet Building here in Cebu City, some Protestant bishops and Catholic priests joined pastors from other churches in assailing the government for alleged acts of silencing their peers who criticize the administration and its policies.

They cited Fr. William Tadena, a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who was murdered in Tarlac after celebrating Mass last March 13. And in Eastern Visayas alone, they claimed there are 16 documented cases of killing of activists in the church.

The latest fatality was Rev. Edison Lapuz. Unidentified armed men have gunned down Lapuz right after attending the burial of his father-in-law in San Isidro town, Leyte last Thursday night. Fr. Edgardo Abundo, of the group Patriot said. “Di lang ni separate cases. Duna juy national trend,” he said.

Pastor Steve Berdin, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, said, “We see these violent repression targeting men of the cloth as part of the grand design to silence legitimate political dissenters of the bankrupt and unstable Arroyo government.”

The church leaders believed that the government has a briefing material labeled as “Knowing the Enemy” that allegedly tagged some of them as leftists and thus enemies of the government for the military to spy upon.

They claimed that those listed in the document are the Iglesia Filipina, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, UCCP, and the Promotion of Church People’s Response, among others.

IFI diocesan bishop, Rt/Rev. Felomino Ang, for his part said: “It is unarguable. The government and the military are regarding the Church as their enemy.”