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Presidential Palace in the Philippines condemns murder of Bishop Ramento

By Santosh Digal

10/5/06 Philippines (ANS) — Bishop Alberto Ramento of Tarlac in the Philippines , former Prime Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, or Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), was found stabbed to death at his rectory on the morning of October 3.

The initial police report said that he may have been killed by robbers, but others suspect Ramento, an outspoken critic of the Philippine government, could have been the victim of a political killing, the Manila Times reported.

The Palace Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the police have been directed to hunt down the people behind the slaying of the head of the Philippine Independent Church’s Supreme Council of Bishops.

“The murder of Aglipayan Bishop Alberto Ramento is an abominable act that the police must attend to with thoroughness and dispatch. We join the victim’s family and his supporters in condemning this killing,” he said in a statement.

Bunye likewise urged some sectors “to refrain from wild and insensitive allegations that any authorities had a hand in it” until the police investigation is complete.

“Let us spare this case from partisan controversy and wait instead for the results of the investigation and action by our law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Ramento, was found stabbed to death inside the IFI church in Barangay Poblacion, Tarlac City Tuesday morning. Initial reports said Ramento might have been killed by robbers.

Left-leaning lawmakers, however, said Ramento, an outspoken critic of the government, could have been the victim of a political killing.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, meantime, appealed to families of murdered left-wing workers and journalists to cooperate with a government initiated inquiry into the killings and abductions.

Ermita assured that the commission, headed by former Supreme Court justice Jose Melo, operates with transparency and independence since its creation last August.

Families of those murdered have threatened to boycott the commission hearings, saying the panel was designed to clear the military from any blame.

“I wish they would cooperate rather than trying to discredit the Melo commission,” Ermita said, adding the commission was established to “search the truth” behind the murders.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) yesterday condemned the murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento, saying his death was a great loss to the Christian world and the nation itself.

Pimentel asked President Arroyo to order law enforcement authorities to get to the bottom of the slaying amid allegations that the killing of the religious leader was intended to silence him for supporting many pro-people causes, including human rights, civil liberties and good governance.

“Extrajudicial killers took the life of Tarlac Aglipayan Bishop Alberto Ramento. Justice demands that Mrs. Arroyo orders the military and police to go after the killers and punish them. Otherwise, there may be another miscarriage of justice,” he said.

“The killing of the Aglipayan bishop illustrates anew that the mercenary death squads are still on the loose, undeterred form carrying out their wicked mission despite the much-vaunted administration’s pledge to unmask the perpetrators of political and media killings through the formation of the Melo fact-finding commission,” he said.

Also yesterday, Sen. Ralph Recto said Malacañang should put all the resources of the government in nailing down the killer of Bishop Alberto Ramento.

“This is a big black eye to the government. With his stature, he can’t be a mere statistic in the body count of dead activists. He was the head of a fairly large religious group. You can’t sweep a bishop’s death under the rug,” Recto said.

He urged the Palace to “demonstrate proof” that it is mobilizing personnel and resources to catch murderers of the Tarlac-based prelate.

“Whether it was robbery, as theorized by the police, or politically motivated, as claimed by his friends, his death must be solved soon. The longer it remains unresolved, the more those accusations that he was a victim of a state rubout would become shrill,” Recto said.

“The only way the administration can escape being perceived as suspect No.1, no matter how unfair that would be, is for its people to apprehend the real suspects,” he said.

Recto urged friends of the slain bishop to extend full cooperation to police probers.

“It would help us all if we keep our theories to ourselves while the professional elements of the police are doing their sleuthing,” he said.