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First Death Anniversary Symposium Notes Slow Justice for Slain Church Worker And Wife

ICC Note: A year after the murder of two Indonesian Christians, the government has no new information on who was responsible.

6/23/07 Philippines (UCAN) — Relatives and friends of a former Church employee killed with his wife last year hope the two will not become just additional names on a long list of unsolved killings.

Father Peter Geremia told UCA News the National Bureau of Investigation sent him and the family of George and Maricel Vigo a report last year, saying a “very influential person” was behind the couple’s death.

When the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) priest asked authorities about it, he was told a follow-up investigation is still underway. He refrained from naming the suspect…

Nuns, lay Church leaders, NGO workers, journalists, government officials and leaders of private groups representing various sectors were among those present.

Father Geremia told UCA News the symposium was about “remembering the Vigos” but also “other similar victims.” As of May 31, the NGO Karapatan (rights) listed 863 victims of extrajudicial killings since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became president in 2001. Twenty-two are classified as Church workers.

The Vigos died of gunshot wounds after two men on a motorcycle fired at them on a busy Kidapawan street in broad daylight. They left behind five children between the ages of 3 and 15.

When he was killed, George, 33, was project officer of the Mindanao Youth Leadership program of Community and Family Services International, which organizes youths in conflict areas. Maricel, 36, was a part-time researcher and coordinator of Solar Power Technology System, which promotes the use of solar power in remote villages.

At the symposium, Father Geremia reported no breakthrough in the Vigos’ case. The police suspected Jhonever Madangguit as a hit man, but on June 3 the suspect was found dead in Agusan del Sur, northeast of Cotabato.

Some symposium participants suggested Madangguit was set up as the “fall guy” to put the investigation off track. Some hoped Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, a former member of the Melo Commission, would help them push the investigation forward. Arroyo formed the five-member commission in August 2006 to probe the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines …

Father Geremia also talked about his confrere, Father Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped from his parish in Ipil prelature, west of Kidapawan, on June 10.

Some people believe these recent events are ways for the government “to divert the attention of people” from “what is happening in other aspects of the nation,” Father Geremia told UCA News. There is speculation that the military may be restive, especially with the victory of an accused coup leader running for the Senate in the May 14 elections….

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