On the day he was killed, Paez had facilitated the release of an organizer of a farmers’ group arrested by the army in March. Torches and the golden sickle are said to symbolize the productive force of the Philippine society, according to the protesting group. Photo from the Peasant Movement of the Philippines/Facebook

Priest latest victim of Philippines violence against poor workers, farmers

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  • December 7, 2017
MANILA, Philippines – A day after police killed a Christian pastor they tagged as a member of the communist New People’s Army, gunmen killed a 72-year-old Catholic priest on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Ucanews.com reported that unidentified men shot dead Fr. Marcelito Paez around 8 p.m. Dec. 4 while he was driving in San Leonardo, about 175 kilometres northeast of the capital. The priest died later at a local hospital.

fr marcelito paez nueva ecija The attack occurred hours after Paez, a retired priest of the San Jose Diocese and a national board member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan, the provincial capital.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is a national, inter-congregational organization of priests and laypeople that works with peasants and Indigenous people. Paez was also the group’s Central Luzon co-ordinator.

San Jose Bishop Roberto Mallari and other clergy condemned the killing and demanded justice. In a statement, Mallari said Paez once headed the justice and peace desk of the diocese’s social action commission, bringing him in close contact with poor workers and farmers.

A day earlier, the police regional mobile force said they killed Rev. Lovelito Quinones of the Kings Glory Ministry in Mansalay, almost 800 km southwest of Manila. Police said they tagged the pastor as a member of the New People’s Army.

However, ucanews.com reported the pastor’s relatives and critics denied the charge and said police planted a gun after shooting him just five minutes away from his residence. Human rights groups said no gun residue was found on the victim’s arm, supporting the idea of a planted gun.

The two murders followed the Nov. 16 shooting death of lay pastor Perfecto Hoyle from the United Church of Christ of the Philippines.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has branded the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army “terrorist” groups. The president also threatened to go after legal activist groups. His spokesman said groups and individuals suspected of “conspiring” with the underground movement would be included as targets.

Duterte later told soldiers they can shoot unarmed civilians if they feel threatened. He promised the military legal protection from human rights cases, the same pledge offered to a police force that has killed close to 4,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers.

Paez was known as an activist. He once led the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines, which campaigned for the removal of the U.S. military bases.

On the day he was killed, Paez had facilitated the release of an organizer of a farmers’ group arrested by the army in March.

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