Peace for Life Statement on the Murder of Bishop Alberto B. Ramento
2006 OCTOBER 9
Bishop Alberto B. Ramento is very much part of the formation of Peace for Life, not only in his participation in its founding and various other activities, but more so in the way he lived out his faith and prophetic ministry, in the way it was an embodiment of PfL’s stated conviction: that events in our midst impel us to delve deep into the imperatives of our faith and that concern for the victims requires the necessity to act and take sides—to denounce war as an instrument of the strong against the weak and the violence of the armed against the unarmed, which devastates the lives of communities across the globe; the continued development and use of weapons of mass destruction; pre-emptive strikes; policies of unilateralism and national security that impose military bases, military exercises; and increasingly repressive police and surveillance measures.
In his speech at the PfL’s inaugural forum in December 2004, he spoke in his characteristic uncomplicated theology of a Christian who had chosen the side of the victims, of the poor, of the oppressed thirsting for justice. He drew a vivid picture of the landless peasants of Hacienda Luisita, their struggles and their victimisation in the hands of the landowners, the social system, and the state itself. How one day when the military swooped down at the strikers, he saw the body of a young peasant boy, already made frail by poverty and toil, was splayed bloody and lifeless, shot as the boy was bringing water to the strikers. Bishop Ramento, in his anguished voice, then asked the mainly Christian participants where in a reality of raw brutality and injustice as this should Christian theology lie.
He was a man of peace; with passion he pursued the way of dialogues and negotiations between conflicting parties. But he was just as passionate in his conviction that victims have the right to struggle against their oppressors, with arms if they must. To reject armed struggle was to him a rejection of the theology of his church and its revolutionary heritage.
The history of the Iglesia Filipina Indepediente, as the Bishop would constantly remind us, is interwoven with the history of the Filipino people’s anti colonial and anti imperialist history, and the clergy that came to establish the independent church was an integral part of this struggle—Gregorio Aglipay, the first supreme bishop, was the vicar general of the Philippine revolutionary army—Filipino clergies that rejected the colonial church and participated in the armed struggle against the Spanish and U.S. empires. Additionally, IFI was officially established in the founding congress of the Union Obrero Democratico, the first labour union in the Philippines, which speaks of its intimate affinity with the struggles of the working class.
Bishop Ramento embodied these in his discipleship and made him the latest victim of the systematic killing of activists, church workers, journalists, and community leaders in the Philippines who were critical of the current administration. Why are we so sure that the bishop and all the more than 700 others are victims of state terrorism? It is because all of them shared the passion and the energy to take the side of the poor and the powerless, to reject the elitist policies and oppressive measures of the Philippine government, to go against the government’s subservience to the dictates of the U.S. Empire. All of them were enemies of the powers and principalities that perpetuate war and injustice.
There is very little likelihood that the overwhelming demand for impartial probe will be satisfied. Self incrimination is unlikely. The current administration, led by a president whose legitimacy is under question, is mindless of the real problems of the Philippine society and sees instead a beleaguered leadership caused by “destabilisers” in collusion with the Left. The president has identified the main focus of its energies into a) crushing the communist insurgency—regardless of the number of “collateral damage”; b) transforming the country into five super economic regions—shorthand for privatisation and liberalisation of the entire economy; and c) full commitment to the US’ war on terror—meaning allowing military forces to base in the Philippines and make the country a linchpin of U.S. geopolitical project in the Asia-Pacific.
Thus, the unrelenting manoeuvre to change the constitution, pursued in a manner that legal opinions and common sense criticize as self-serving and unconstitutional. A new constitution that would allow the president and many other elected officials to hold office beyond what is currently allowed by law; remove all deterrents to free trade and the liberalisation of the economy; allow unrestricted use of the Philippine territory by the U.S. military. Simply put, the constitutional change is mainly to remove anti-dictatorship and nationalist and democratic provisions incorporated in the post-Marcos Constitution, gains of the Filipino people’s 1986 “people power.”
These manoeuvrings were the constant theme of Bishop Ramento’s witness.
He died in one of the darkest periods in Philippine history, a death brought about because of his search for light, for hope. “The darkest hour of night comes just before dawn,” goes an oriental saying. However, the lessons of history tell us that this dawn can only come when the strength of a united people puts a stop at the perpetrators of injustice, when people are imbued by courage and commitment to live out their faith in the recognition that peace and justice are universal aspirations and the struggle against all forces of injustice and exploitation is a common struggle for people of all faiths and conviction.
PEACE FOR LIFE SECRETARIAT
9 October 2006