Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa has expressed alarm over a series of killings in the central Philippine province of Palawan in recent weeks.
“We are deeply alarmed by the spate of killings happening in our community,” said the bishop in an interview over Church-run radio Veritas 846.
“As your spiritual leaders, we strongly condemn the evil of murder. It is utterly against the will of God to deprive anybody of what is most precious – one’s life,” said the prelate.
Bishop Mesiona issued the statement following the killing of lawyer Eric Jay Magcamit on November 17 and village chief Roderick Perocho on November 6.
“We urge our civil authorities to promptly conduct appropriate investigation and to bring into justice those who are guilty,” said the bishops.
Magcamit, 35, was shot dead in broad daylight on his way to a court hearing in Quezon town, Palawan province. He was the 52nd lawyer killed in the country since 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.
“We want to assure the bereaved members of the families of our sincere solidarity and fervent prayers,” said Bishop Mesiona.
“It is in these trying times that all the more we call and cling on to God who alone brings true comfort and strength,” he said.
Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan condemned the killings of freelance journalist Ronnie Villamor in Masbate and peasant leader Armando Buisan in Quezon province.
Villamor, 50, a stringer for local tabloid “Dos Kantos Balita,” was shot dead on November 14, in an alleged “encounter” with soldiers of the Philippine Army.
Police reports said Villamor has been suspected of being a member of the communist New People’s Army, a charge disputed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
Buisan, 60, president of a local chapter of a farmers organization, was gunned down by still unidentified assailants in the village of Santa Maria.
He was known for leading farmers in resisting the privatization of the levy funds for farmers and asserting that farmers should be the funds’ beneficiaries.
“We call for an urgent investigation into their killing. We demand justice for their deaths and for all victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines,” read a statement from Karapatan.