The murders of peasant activist Romulo Mendoba and Father Cecilio Lucero, both of Eastern Visayas, have been blamed on the military’s Oplan Bantay Laya. In the case of Lucero, he had been publicly denounced by President Arroyo as “that communist priest,” according to the NDF. It is said that he was the first priest to have been murdered in Samar since Catholicism was introduced in the province 400 years ago.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A peasant activist and a Catholic priest were killed in two consecutive days in Eastern Visayas.
On Sept. 5, at around 4 p.m., peasant activist Romulo Mendoba was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men wearing bonnets. According to the local peasant group Saguba-Sinirangang Bisaya, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Mendoba was with his wife and a colleague when the attack happened within the boundary of Sitio Cambabang of Barangay Cogon and Barangay Cancaiyas in Basey, Samar.
The following day, Father Cecilio Lucero, parish priest of Catubig, Samar, was killed by some 30 armed men in Sitio Puente, Barangay Lahuyan, San Jose town, Northern Samar, a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer stated. Lucero was shot in the head and other parts of the body.
Lucero 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. The task force is an initiative of the diocese with multisectoral partnership.
Monsignor Walter Cerbito, vicar general of the Diocese of Catarman, told Bulatlat in a phone interview that as chairman of the Task Force Peace and Order, Lucero would go around the parishes to investigate human-rights cases. “He was very active in documentation of human rights abuses and in holding dialogue with the military,” Cerbito said. “He himself would draft affidavits of victims,” he added.
Flor Chantal Eco, secretary general of Katungod-Sinirangang Bisaya, a regional human-rights alliance in Eastern Visayas and an affiliate of Karapatan, praised Lucero for his commitment in human-rights advocacy.
“Father Lucero was brave. He would defy even some of the security precautions just to respond to human-rights cases. He would usually go to military camps all by himself and seek dialogue with military officials,” Eco told Bulatlat.
A Big Blow to Catholic Church
Cerbito said that the killing of Lucero is “a big blow to the Catholic Church.”
“For us, this is a big loss. After 400 years of Catholicism in Samar, this is the first time in history [that a Catholic priest was killed],” Cerbito said. “It is very shocking.”
Cerbito said it is a shame that in a democratic country like the Philippines, even Church workers are killed.
Eco said that in both cases, there is a great possibility that the military was behind the killings.
In a separate statement, Robert Dela Cruz, spokesman of Sagupa-SB, said that before the incident, Mendoba was summoned twice by military officials to go to their camp. “The military officials were trying to link Mang Romulo [Mendova] to a recent raid conducted by the NPA [New People’s Army] but he vehemently refused and denied the allegation,” Dela Cruz said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that has been waging a Maoist revolution for four decades now.