The recent cold-bloodied murder of Rev. Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez shook the Christian world that has been already burdened with the on-going persecution of the Indigenous Peoples in the countryside. In a statement, the National Clergy Discernment Group (NCDG), express “disgust over the murder of Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez,” and “condemn this utterly reprehensible act and grieve over the lengths human rights violators would pursue in order to quell the people’s aspirations for a full and abundant life.”
Fr. Paez was shot nine times by four motorcycle-riding assassins in the evening of December 4 and died thereafter. A day earlier, he was said to have facilitated the release of political detainee Rommel Tucay from the Provincial Jail in Cabanatuan City.
Many among his colleagues remember Fr. Tito as the “ever jolly and cheerful priest of the clergy discernment group.” He was one of the pioneer initiators of the group which was formed in 2009. Said to be committed to the cause of the poor and always challenging other priests to put into practice their prophetic role, Fr. Tito was a part of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, who had been the coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon.
It was recalled in the statement that in the 80s, Fr. Paez was a leader of the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines (CLASP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Central Luzon, which campaigned for the removal of the US military bases and had rallied against the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Like Fr. Joe Dizon, he was also known as an activist priest and had been threatened by the military under the dispensation of President Gloria Arroyo. Living the prophetic witness which was foremost his choice, the killing of Fr. Tito was considered by the Church as a manifestation of how much evil has incarnated in the current world.
Further, both his life and death has become an inspiration to all and sundry, so that justice must be upheld, a task that must be constantly acted upon and a gift that must be fervently cherished.
The Christian world wants justice to be served for Fr. Tito Paez and all victims of extra judicial killings for that matter. They are asking the present administration to act swiftly on the case and other politically instigated killings of human rights defenders.
But would President Duterte still listen to the cries of the poor?
Many are disheartened and disillusioned. Many are asking the same questions asked by different people from all walks of life some decades ago when Martial Law was declared by Marcos: what is happening to our country?
Yet those in power are unperturbed, perhaps, even rejoicing and gloating at the turn of events from bad to worse.
Condemning the Indigenous Peoples to perdition is like casting away our roots to oblivion and forgetting how we started out as a people. Dismissing the peace advocates as conduits of rebellion to silence calls for peace and justice is like muzzling our very own thought processes, our sanity, and our humanity.
It’s like holding on to the virtual world and endlessly killing the enemy that we have created for our pleasure. No more sanity to talk about, only endless war and insatiable blood lust. And the cry of the innocent victims of this carnage fills the heavens: God save us all!