“She lived out her Christian faith, showing preference for the poor.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed that Engineer Fidela Salvador, a development worker killed in Lacub, Abra, manned the machine gun in a so-called encounter between their troops and members of the New People’s Army.
But her husband, Nelson found it both “irritating” and “amusing” as his wife could hardly carry her backpack.
“My wife was a small and petite woman.I do not think she can carry a gun even if she wanted to,” he said at the launch of the campaign “Justice for Engr. Delle Salvador, Justice for Lacub, Abra.”
In a statement, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) condemned the killing of Salvador and called for the pull out of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, which, to this day, continues to militarize the area, resulting to the disruption of classes and farm work.
“We need to do something more. This is no ordinary death,” Bishop Reuel Marigza, general secretary of the UCCP said. “It is a killing. This is no ordinary killing as it was done with brutality and excessive force,” he said.
Bishop Marigza said: “We must rage and we must express that rage.”
In a short program held at the UCCP’s office in Quezon City, church workers and relatives of the Lacub martyrs held black ribbons as they demanded that those behind the brutal killing of seven members of the NPA and the two civilians in the military operation from Sept. 4 to 6 in Lacub, Abra be held accountable.
Build for the poor
Words are not enough to describe their grief and anger, said Bishop Marigza.
“How can we express sufficiently the anger of what might be called ‘overkill,’ when there is no such thing as an appropriate amount of killing for a civilian, development worker,” Bishop Marigza said.
He remembered Salvador as a “woman of faith” who lived to build peace based on justice and was a kind and caring leader of the church. Her soft voice, Bishop Marigza added, would “clearly herald the need for development in communities trapped in the grind of poverty; her actions constantly and consistently sought to build better realities for the poor.”
Terri Laterza of the Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania said Salvador, well-educated and an engineer, could have chosen an easy life but did not.
“She chose to work for justice and peace. She chose to work for the poor and marginalized. She lived out her Christian faith, showing preference for the poor, as Jesus did,” Laterza, who is also a close friend of Salvador, said.
Laterza said that while they have not seen each other for a long time, they continue to stay in touch via email and Facebook.
“She was always interested in what I was doing, and I liked hearing about her ongoing work and her family. A picture of Delle hangs in my home where I see it everyday. She was holding her youngest son, who was still an infant, on her lap and smiling. I love that picture. It reminds me of her and her joyful spirit — a woman who helped to shape my views of the world and who modeled for me a way of living as Christ did,” she added.
Resumption of talks
After the investigation by the National Solidarity Mission in Lacub in the last week of September, the AFP reassigned half of the 41st Infantry Battalion to Mindanao. They were, however, replaced by the 50th Infantry Battalion, which has an equally notorious human rights violations record in Abra, according to Audrey Beltran of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.
Beltran added that the transfer could mean admission on their part of the atrocities they have committed against the Lacub martyrs. It is also a means for the unit to escape accountability.
Under the 50th IB, Esteban Feraren, one of the elders of Lacub, said via phone patch during the forum, that children are now being used by the military to spy against leaders of people’s organizations.
During the program, UCCP bishops and church workers signed the unity statement of Kapayapaan, a network of peace advocates in the country.