BosNewsLife – The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) accused the Philippines ‘ army Saturday, November 26, of involvement in death threats against a Catholic priest known for his advocacy for human rights in the country.
50-year old Rolando de Leon, a Roman Catholic Priest in Bulacan province, was threatened by suspected “elements of the 56th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army” on October 30, the AHRC said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“A mass had just finished at the San Andres Apostol Parish in Norzagaray [city] of Bulacan province when collectors found four envelopes containing small pieces of paper with bullets on them,” the human rights watchdog said. “Written on the paper were messages with threats [such as] ‘warning for you: You’re next!’,” the AHRC added.
The priest was the latest victim in a series of army threats against individuals suspected of links with opponents of the government, including an armed rebel group, the organization said.
Since 2001 at least over 20 human rights activists, including three priests, were killed, according to AHRC estimates.
After an army official last year publicly identified individuals and organizations with alleged ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) or the New People’s Army (NPA), several “of the named individuals on the list have been killed by assassins,” the AHRC added.
The assassins were described as “armed men usually riding a motorcycle with ski masks” to avoid identification while allegedly using vehicles with no number plates.
In addition “the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) admitted to having released a compact disc presentation entitled ‘Knowing the Enemy: Are We Missing the Point?’,” the group said. Military officials could not be reached for comment.
“It named media, church, human rights and other progressive organizations as supporters, sympathizers, coddlers or under the influence of the Communists. The disc is being shown to villages and discussed among communities where the military conducts so-called civilian military operations,” the AHRC explained, citing several sources.
Rolando de Leon was among priests high on the assassination list as he had been monitoring cases of human rights violations, the group said. “He has also given support to the survivors and families of people who are victims of human rights violations.”
The priest also joins fact-finding missions and dialogues with local government officials while at the same time filing complaints to the Provincial Government and the local Commission on Human Rights on violation cases, the AHRC said.
The Municipality of Norzagaray , the priest’s parish is located, seen as one of the areas suffering from violence related to the military and several people have been killed in recent months, human rights watchers say.