MANILA, Philippines — A meeting in Camp Crame Monday between officials of protestant churches and the Philippine National Police (PNP) turned into a debate into the motives for the killings and abductions of activists, including religious.
Henry Janiola, representative of the Philippine Independent Church, also known as the Aglipayan church, questioned police findings that the killing of their bishop, Alberto Ramento, last year was the offshoot of a robbery.
Ramento, who was a noted human rights advocate and a critic of the administration, was found stabbed dead in his convent in Tarlac province last October.
Four suspects have since been arrested and charged with homicide and robbery.
But Janiola doubted that this was all there was to the killing.
“It is not just plain robbery because the convent in Tarlac is dilapidated…who is interested to rob there? His belongings were cheap…we could not believe it was plain robbery,” said Janiola.
However, Deputy Director General Avelino Razon said investigators could not find any other motive, based on the evidence gathered.
Janiola insisted there was more to the killing of Ramento, saying that, before he was slain, the Aglipayan bishop had received threatening text messages.
“Then show your witnesses who can testify the bishop received these messages…without which, we will have to go back to robbery and homicide,” Razon said.
Director Geary Barias, chief of Task Force Usig, the special police unit tasked to investigate the killings of activists and journalists, said Ramento’s case should be considered closed since charges have been filed in court.
However, even international human rights groups have questioned police findings on the Ramento killing and have included the bishop in their lists of victims of political killings. Local human rights groups place the number of lives lost to extrajudicial killings since 2001 at more than 850.
At the meeting, representatives of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also questioned the arrest of Pastor Berlin Guerrero.
Guerrero, who police tagged a member of the communist New People’s Army, was arrested last May in Biñan town, Laguna province for charges of murder and inciting to sedition.
Leftist groups first reported him as abducted until police acknowledged arresting him.
However, the UCCP representatives said the arrest was illegal because the arresting officers were not armed with any legal documents.
Barias said an investigation was underway to determine if there lapses had been made during the arres