CONSERVATIVE churchmen, leftist human-rights activists and even the US State Department’s section concerned with human rights are in agreement–a rare phenomenon–that President Benigno Aquino and his administration do not include extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances attributed to the military or quasi-military units among their priority concerns.
The killing of Filipino journalists has made the Philippines notorious, but that too is far from President Aquino’s mind.
Last month, on July 11, Cebu’s Archbishop Jose S. Palma, saw it fit to issue a pastoral statement about the 29th anniversary of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano, C.Ss.R, and the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination.
He began by reminding the people of Cebu that the Archdiocese of Cebu is preparing to host the International Eucharistic Congress in January 2016.
He wrote: “His Holiness, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII GAUDIUM (EG), reminds us to be steadfast in our efforts to preach the Gospel of justice and love if we want peace to reign in our society.
“ ‘The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance system can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. (EG, 59)’
“These words take a greater significance as we commemorate the 29th year of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR, a Redemptorist Missionary Priest, who disappeared and was abducted by suspected military men on July 11, 1985. Moreover, if Fr. Romano were still alive today, he would be celebrating this year (2014) the Golden Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood.
“Fr. Rudy Romano took to heart the challenge posed by many of the Church’s social encyclicals, namely, to take the side of the poor while denouncing injustice and social inequality. Following in the footsteps of our Lord, Fr. Rudy also bore his own cross until the end when he offered his life to follow Jesus. His life witness, his living out his vocation as a pastor and his legacy of deep commitment to Gospel values are gifts he offers to us until today even if he is no longer with us.
“In our country today, we are continuously confronted with all kinds of social and ecological problems. Corruption has contributed to the persistence of poverty affecting many of our people. Despite having a relatively high Gross National Product (GNP) growth, this has not been inclusive. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, expressed his own deep concern about the relation between poverty and ‘the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries—in their governments, business and institutions. (EG, 60) ‘
In Cebu, we see glaring indicators of poverty. We see thousands begging in the streets. There are vendors everywhere due to high unemployment…Countless informal settlers are being ejected from their abode even as relocation sites are not yet well prepared. Workers continue to demand higher wages but their cries are not heard. Meanwhile, our farmers and fisherfolk continue to live in abject poverty, made worse by landlessness and the consequences of environmental abuse.
“As a Church of the Poor, on this 29th anniversary of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy and his Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination, let us honor the Holy Father’s exhortation that we ‘share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves. (EG, 274)’
“May the Almighty God, through His Son, Jesus our Redeemer, bless us always. May Mary, the ‘star of the new evangelization’ inspire us to look up to her as our model in living a life that interplays “justice and tenderness, contemplation and concern for others. (EG, 288)’ “
Free Kim Gargar press conference
On Saturday, the association Agham Advocates of Science for the People, held a press conference in which scientist Kim Gargar, a physicist and Agham member, recounted his experience in jail and publicized his quest for justice after having suffered persecution under the military of the Aquino regime.
Groups and family have rallied behind Gargar, who was arrested, detained and then released on bail. He wishes the government’s fabricated charges against him dropped.
Kim Gargar is a former UP professor and PhD candidate of Groningen University in the Netherlands. Elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army arrested him on October 1, 2013 at Brgy. Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental while he was conducting a rehabilitation study on typhoon-Pablo devastated areas. His captors accused him of being part of the armed group that the military had fought with in a village near the place where Gargar was staying.
“I owe my release to the groups and individuals who tirelessly campaigned and gave their support in various ways,” Gargar said. “No thanks to the Aquino government who make it hard for political prisoners like me to regain our liberty and go about in helping marginalized communities.”
Gargar was detained at Baganga jail, charged with illegal possession of explosives, several counts of attempted and frustrated murder and violation of the Comelec gun ban.
The Baganga Regional Trial Court found the testimonies of witnesses against him to be “full of material inconsistencies” and on August 1, 2014, Kim Gargar was granted bail and released after 10 months of imprisonment.
“Despite the efforts of the government to suppress my freedom and keep me from doing my work, I am grateful to have lived with other detainees who are also neglected by the government,” the ex-UP teacher added.
He described the grim situation inside the prison cell. He said it was no different from the situation that led him to Mindanao. “Almost two years after typhoon Pablo, people were left to recover by themselves without government help and are still seeking rehabilitation. My detainment [detention]has only strengthened my conviction to help others,” he said.
“After my ordeal, I now understand why there are increasing number of Filipinos who are critical of the government. But what I find hard to understand is why Aquino has to suppress and vilify those who want genuine change if he is really for the welfare of the country,” he added.
This is not the first time that the AFP has falsely accused innocent scientists and researchers doing fieldwork in remote areas. Well-known and admired botanist Leonard Co, along with four companions, were doing research work for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga in Leyte province on November 15, 2010. The research team was fired upon by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 19th Infantry Batallion. who mistook them for members of New People’s Army. Co and two of his companions were killed.