Statement on the deaths of Fr. Lucero and Romulo Mendova

BAYAN Canada vehemently condemns and laments the ruthless killing of peasant activist Romulo Mendova and Fr. Cecilio Lucero, the priest of the people, staunch peace advocate and an apostle for human rights. Both men were based in Eastern Visayas.

Romulo Mendova was shot dead On Sept. 5, at around 4 p.m by two motorcycle riding men wearing bonnets to disguise their identity.  Mendova was active in the local chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines).  Before the incident, Mendova was summoned twice by military officials to go to their camp. The military officials were trying to link Mendova to a recent raid conducted by the New People’s Army. Mendova vehemently refused and denied all allegations.  He was with his wife and colleague when the attack happened.

Father Cecilio Lucero, parish priest of Catubig, Samar is a member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). He is also the chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and chairman of the Task Force Peace and Order of the Diocese of Catarman, an initiative of the diocese with multi-sectoral partnership. Just several days after the shooting death of Mendova, Fr. Lucero was brutally killed by some thirty men in Sitio Puente, Barangay Lahuyan, San Jose town, Northern Samar. The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) reported that he sustained gunshot wounds in the head and other parts of the body.  He was the first priest to have been murdered in Samar since Catholicism was introduced in the province 400 years ago.

According to Philippine-based human rights group Karapatan, 25 church people (priests, etc) have been killed from January 21, 2001 to December 31, 2008.  Lucero’s death will be adding to this number. Also, within the same period, there have been 95 extra-judicial killings and 26 enforced disappearances in the region of Eastern Visayas alone, where Lucero and Mendova were assassinated.

BAYAN Canada holds Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directly responsible for the death of Fr. Lucero. It was reported that Arroyo publicly denounced Lucero “as that communist priest” in front of General Arthur Tabaquero and other high civilian and military officials at the inauguration of Catubig Bridge on June 16, 2009. “Arroyo’s public red-baiting of Fr.  Lucero gave the go signal for her militarist minions to kill him in line with Oplan Bantay Laya [Military counter insurgency: Operation Freedom Watch],” explains BAYAN Canada Chairman, Dr. Chandu Claver.

“We condemn the institutions and individuals that are responsible for these unspeakable atrocities. The fascist agents of President Gloria Arroyo make no exception in killing church people who practice the preferential option for the poor. Not even the religious leaders are spared from this wave of state-sponsored terrorism against the people, despite calls from within and outside the country to stop the killings,” says Dr. Claver.

If indeed, Fr. Lucero was killed by the Philippine military on suspicion he is “a communist priest,” then Fr. Lucero rightfully belongs to history as a contemporary martyr who dared to challenge the validity and legitimacy of a dehumanizing, established order.  If the deaths of Lucero and Mendova were but an occurrence of barbaric shootings, then, they are one among the many countless victims of a regime which has no regard for life.

Fr. Lucero’s and Romulo Mendova’s exemplary lives and the manner in which they died serving the people will be a burning flame to a people’s struggle for justice, freedom and national democracy!

For reference: Beth Dollaga – BAYAN Canada NOC, bayan.canada.noc@gmail.com

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