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Iglesia Filipina Independiente's statement on Bishop Ramento's murder

10/4/2006
[Episcopal News Service]   

"I KNOW THEY ARE GOING TO KILL ME NEXT BUT NEVER WILL I ABANDON MY DUTY TO GOD AND MY MINISTRY TO THE PEOPLE"
(A statement of Bishop Alberto B Ramento to his family)

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has once again made a precious offering in the continuing task of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the brutal killing of the Most Reverend Alberto B. Ramento, the 9th Obispo Maximo of the Church.

The good bishop was slain by faceless assassins who broke through the rectory where he was staying at around four o'clock in the morning of October 03, 2006 in the Parish of San Sebastian, Tarlac City. He was awakened in his sleep when the assassins had entered his room and stabbed him seven times to death. We denounced in the strongest possible terms this barbaric and dastardly act against a man of the cloth within the premises of his own church.

Initial police investigation reports point to the incident as a mere case of robbery with homicide. However, the Ramento family, the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Tarlac believe that the motive is much deeper than what has come out from the spot investigation. There are glaring indications that Bishop Ramento's murder was thoroughly planned and politically motivated. We believe that the brutal killing was the inevitable consequence of his principled engagement with the people and their struggle for the fullness of life.

Bishop Ramento, aside from being a well-loved pastor by his clergy and faithful, has earned the reputation as a social prophet, and an icon in the nationalist struggle of the Filipino masses with his uncompromising stand for national sovereignty and patrimony. He was a true advocate of just peace. As a matter of fact, Bishop Ramento is part of the Monitoring Group in the Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front Philippines.

He was a known figure in the ecumenical movement in and outside the country. Bishop Ramento has served as the Chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. He was also a Co-Chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) which is composed of bishops from the various Churches in the Philippines

Bishop Ramento, as the Chairman of the IFI Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB), has strongly condemned the state of political repression and grave situation of human rights violation in the country. He has particularly denounced the unabated extra judicial killings of militant leaders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, church people and innocent civilians under the watch of the current administration. As an outspoken critic of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he has consistently questioned the legitimacy of her presidency, and urged her to step down from office. In the last pastoral letter he signed as SCB Chairman, Bishop Ramento has urged the faithful "to find courage and confront the darkness that is engulfing the very soul of the nation and continue to tread the path towards the establishment of a just society under a government that genuinely serves the interest and welfare of the Filipinos."

Honored as the "Bishop of the Poor Peasants and Workers", Bishop Ramento has earned the love and respect of the farm workers at Hacienda Luisita, a vast sugar plantation in Tarlac, as he rallied support to their cause and advocated for their struggle.

The people behind his death might think that they have silenced him and maimed the prophetic voice of the Church. They are mistaken. His death has become like a candle in burning incense, sparking more fire, enflaming the hearts of the clergy and faithful of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to remain faithful to her pro-people and pro-labor heritage. Indeed, we grieved over his death, yet we celebrate his life. They may have taken his life by opening his body with wounds -- but these wounds have become the doorway from which Bishop Ramento's valiant spirit has been poured out and shared to many.

Truly, the death of Bishop Alberto B. Ramento is a great loss not only for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente but also for the ecumenical movement and peoples' organizations. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente strongly urges the authorities to immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation on the murder of Bishop Ramento and bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.

We ask the prayers of the faithful for Bishop Alberto B. Ramento, a fatherly pastor, a social prophet, an uncompromising nationalist, a peacemaker, and a champion of the peoples' cause, who now joins his Creator. As we mourn the death of a beloved member of the IFI family, may we find inspiration from his life and death even as we commit to stand firmly for what he believed in and fought for. Let his death find meaning in our continuing resolve to live-out the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon which Bishop Ramento dedicated his life.  

PRO DEO ET PATRIA

+ GODOFREDO J. DAVID
11th Obispo Maximo