The murder earlier this month of a Catholic priest, Father Cecilio Lucero, has enraged leaders of the Catholic Church. “I can not stomach what Malacañang is doing,” said recently retired Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. “It seems they do not fear God.”
By RONALYN OLEA
MANILA – As the Philippines marks tomorrow, Sept. 21, the 37th anniversary of the declaration of martial law that ushered in one of its darkest periods, religious leaders are convinced that the Arroyo regime is proving to be much worse than the Marcos dictatorship.
The murder earlier this month of a Catholic priest, Father Cecilio Lucero, this month has enraged leaders of the Church, with a bishop and a nun both seeing the extrajudicial killing, as well as the hundreds more that came before it, as a manifestation of a situation worse than during the martial-law period.
“If they killed a priest, they can do that to anybody else. Where is their soul? Where is their conscience?” said recently retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen.
On Sept. 6, Lucero, parish priest of Catubig, Samar, was killed by some 30 armed men in Sitio Puente, Barangay Lahuyan, San Jose town, Northern Samar. Lucero was a member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). He was also the chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and chairman of the Task Force Peace and Order of the Diocese of Catarman.
Upon hearing news of Lucero’s murder, Cruz said he “suddenly felt weak.”
“This government has tolerated not only the violation of human rights but also extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances,” Cruz told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
He said Lucero wsas one of the few priests who took to heart his service to the people. “Amid threats to his life, he pursued his service. What happened to him was his reward for defending the people from those who are not pleased with his advocacy,” Cruz said.
Violation of a Priest’s Dignity
Sister Ellen Belardo RGS, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), said she and the other nuns felt anger, “a justified anger.” The RMP is a national organization of members of the clergy and the laity committed to work for the poor in rural areas.
“It is a blatant violation of Fr. Lucero’s dignity,” Belardo said, holding back tears. “Even if I do not know him personally, we felt how his dignity was violated. It hurts because we know his work as a social action director is to protect the people.”
Cruz described the Arroyo regime as one of the worst.
‘I can not stomach what Malacañang is doing,” he said. “It seems they do not fear God.”
“The policy of this government is, one, do not tell the truth. Second, do not oppose me. Whether it is right or wrong, whether it is foolish or upright, this government does not care. It is the one who sets the standards of what is right,” Cruz lamented.
Cruz said that with the killing of Lucero, the powers that be sent a clear message: “Do not contradict us or else you will not live long.”
Belardo is as angry. “They keep on covering up the truth, they fabricate lies and then they kill those who promote the Good News, those who teach people about their rights,” she said.
The Catholic nun has been with the RMP since the late 70s. She has been assigned in many rural areas during the martial-law period. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law exactly 37 years ago tomorrow, Sept. 21.
Belardo said Catholic nuns serving in barrios then were tagged as subversives. “We told them that this is the call of the times. We are called on to go to those who are exploited, who are victims of injustice.”
“The mission of Jesus is for the poor. The Church does not refer to the structure of the hierarchical church but to the community of people in different places. As religious, we are tasked to be with the poor. When we are with the poor it is not just us who teach them, they have also been evangelizing us,” Belardo said.