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Christians in the Philippines say that church worker Tito Marata was killed by a lone assassin because he was suspected of aiding a rebel group due to his work with the poor.

Sun.Star Zamboanga (06/20/06) PAGADIAN CITY — A bishop, senior member of the Christian clergy, and a co-priest condemned the latest killing of a Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) media officer who was said to be closely working with Church missionaries in Misamis Occidental.

Bishop Benjamin Barloso, Northwestern Mindanao jurisdictional bishop of UCCP based in Cagayan de Oro, “condemned in highest form of language” the killing of Tito Jayme Marata, a 26-year-old peasant leader of KMP working closely with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

Contrary to earlier reports, Marata is not a member of RMP but he is the missionaries’ contact person to deliver the services given by KMP, said Carl Ala of KMP.

Father Rolly Decena, a catholic priest who worked with Marata, also condemned the killing of Marata.

Fatal warning

Marata was killed by a lone assassin while riding a tricycle for work around 10:00 a.m. Saturday. The gunman flagged the tricycle driver and ordered him to leave.

Relatives of Marata said that witnesses overheard the gunman as telling Marata before shooting: “Giingnan na ta ka ug hunong na sa imong trabaho (I already told you to stop with what you’re doing).”

“Tito was a peasant leader and member of the church who, along with missionaries, was working to uplift the conditions of peasants and farmer in rural areas. It saddened me why people, like him, are persecuted. Tito is working as what the gospel is telling us to help the poor,” Decena, parish priest of Dimaluna town in Misamis Occidental, told Sun.Star.

Church’s role

Bishop Barloso told Sun.Star the killing of Marata appears is government’s failure to understand the role of the Church to help the poor, particularly in rural areas.

“In the spirit of genuine faith and faith-based work to the poor, those working with the church and the poor must not be killed. These senseless killings are high condemnable as it is a sin against God, the source of life, and humanity,” said Barloso.

Decena said the death of Marata “could be related to his work as KMP member, working in rural and remote areas.”

“He might be suspected of helping the New People’s Army (NPA) as it is being the trend here. The military and police authorities always suspect people as members or sympathizers of NPA when they are seen helping the poor farmers in rural communities.”

“That is always the pattern, and his death could be related to his work,” said Decena.

A former guidance counselor, Allan Molde, who knows of Marata in the school where he graduated in Pagadian, said: “He is a fine man, of very strong commitment and principle. His death saddened me and to all who knew him in school.”

Barloso and Decena expressed alarm that even those working with the church are not exempted from the ongoing persecution of leaders who are actively working with the people identified as anti-Arroyo.

Barloso said that since Arroyo became the president in 2001, there were already 15 UCCP church members who were killed.

Church persecution

UCCP pastor Rev. Jemias Tinambacan and Marata were the latest victims of Church persecution, said Barloso.

“Church people are upholding the lives of people, especially small people, by working with them to improve their lives,” said Barloso.

The bishop said the works of these people are not against the government, and they should not be killed.

“We are helping the government improve the lives of the poor, why is it that we are being killed? We are actually trying to cooperate with the state and they should not consider us as their enemies — to be liquidated,” said Barloso, referring to members of the Church being target of assassinations and suspected of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Barloso said: “It appears that the church and its workers have now become the target of liquidation. And there is a pattern that the killings are done in systematic manner, leaving no trace of evidence.”

Barloso said President Arroyo and the authorities, like the AFP and the police, should be held accountable even if they deny having a hand on the killings. “They are the ones tasked to provide security to the people, to give us peaceful place to live.”

Decena criticized the P1 billion budget of President Arroyo aimed at crushing insurgency in two years time.

“Even if the government could physically crush down the rebels, it wouldn’t die. There would be another group that will take arms against the government if it fails to address the root cause of insurgency. That P1 billion budget for military to crush down the NPA should instead be given to improve the lives of the poor just like what we are doing,” said Decena.

Decena said the Church and other people’s organization are very active in community work, because there are no social services given to them by the government.

“We are persecuted by helping the poor and yet there are lesser social services given to the poor. That P1 billion money should instead be added to give us better education, health, and livelihood projects,” said Decena.

Decena said that Marata was among those who would want to improve the lives of the poor but he was killed helping the poor…[Go To Full Story]