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Tribute to Bishop Alberto Ramento the Bishop of the workers and peasants

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By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
6 October 2006

On behalf of the participating organizations of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) in scores of countries, I hereby express deepest condolences to the family of Most Reverend Bishop Alberto Ramento, to all the clergy and members of the Philippine Independent Church and to all his colleagues in the people’s movement for national freedom, democracy, social justice and a just and lasting peace.

All of us are in grief and feel a deep sense of loss over the murder of Bishop Ramento. But we are all comforted by the fact that he has lived a full and meaningful life in the service of his faith and the oppressed and exploited people. His contributions to the people’s struggle for a better life constitute a vital legacy and will continue to shine. His martyrdom inspires us to struggle ever harder for the people’s rights.

May I mention that I had the good fortune of knowing Bishop Ramento personally. We worked together with others in 1994 to persuade the president of the reactionary government to release from prison a revolutionary cadre, whose arrest by the military was prejudicing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Since then, we had fruitful relations in pushing forward said negotiations, especially after his visit to the NDFP Negotiating Panel.

We of the ILPS condemn in the most vigorous terms the brutal murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento last October 3, 2006 in his parish in San Sebastian, Tarlac City, Philippines. We are informed by his immediate relatives and colleagues in his church and in the people’s movement that before his murder he was categorized as an “enemy of the state” and listed in the “order of battle” of the military and that he received death threats by text messages for opposing the charter change campaign of the Arroyo regime, condemning the extrajudicial killings and supporting the workers and peasants in Hacienda Luisita.

But Bishop Ramento could never be cowed. He was firm with his principles and was an experienced fighter for justice. Since the time of the struggle against the Marcos fascist dictatorship, many people have come to know him as a staunch and fearless fighter for the people’s rights. He was always conscious of adhering to and promoting the revolutionary heritage and the continuing patriotic and progressive character of the Philippine Independent Church.

The ILPS is well informed that the Philippine Independent Church was a product of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonialism and then against US imperialism. It is the largest church alternative to the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. It has millions of church members. At the same time, it respects the principle of the separation of the church and the state. It has concordat relations with the Anglican provinces and the old Catholic Church abroad.

Bishop Ramento was ever conscious of bringing to the defense of the Filipino people the strength and influence of his church in the Philippines and abroad. But he was always personally a humble and hardworking priest even as he rose to the highest positions in his church and in the ecumenical movement. He served as the Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC), chairperson of the National Council of Churches and co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum.

He upheld the revolutionary legacy of his church by word and by deed. He stood and fought for the rights of the poor, the exploited and the oppressed. He was on the side of the workers and peasants of the vast plantation Hacienda Luisita when they launched a strike for the implementation of land reform, higher wages and the return to work of dismissed union officials. Together with the workers and peasants, he faced the attacks of the military against the striking workers. Loved and respected by the masses, his clergy and the faithful he served, he was honored as the “bishop of the poor workers and peasants.”

Bishop Ramento was an outspoken critic of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, questioning the legitimacy of her rule and asking her to step down. He also denounced the US-backed Arroyo regime and her repressive instruments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the paramilitary. He condemned the rampant acts of state terrorism. In the strongest terms, he denounced the Arroyo regime for its culpability for the extra-judicial killings, abductions, torture and other human right violations.

Bishop Ramento was a strong advocate of just peace. He was indefatigable in pointing out that the civil war in the Philippines can be resolved through peace negotiations only by addressing the fundamental problems of the people through economic, social and political reforms guided by the principles of national independence, democracy and social justice. He was outstanding in spearheading associations and actions for a just and lasting peace.

Bishop Ramento’s parish in Tarlac is a parish of the poor and his church is simple with no treasures of holy icons or golden tapestry. That is why no one believes the precipitate claim of the police that robbery was the cause of his murder. His wealth is his pro-people principles as manifested in all his efforts to uphold, defend and promote the rights and interests of the people, especially the toiling masses.

In the last pastoral letter that he signed as Chairman of the Supreme Council of Bishops, he called on the people to “find courage and confront the darkness that is engulfing the very soul of the nation and continue to tread the path towards the establishment of a just society under a government that genuinely serves the interest and welfare of the Filipinos.”

His moral leadership and his active participation in the people’s struggle have earned the ire of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime. Arroyo, her cabinet oversight committee on internal security and her minions in the military, police and its paramilitary and death squads are all responsible for the dastardly murder of Bishop Ramento. It is within the framework of the Bush-directed war of terror and Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya that our beloved Bishop Ramento has been taken away from us, like the hundreds of other victims of extra-judicial killings.

The extra-judicial killings by the Arroyo regime’s cabal of assassins have failed and will fail again to intimidate and stop the Filipino people from fighting this puppet, corrupt, brutal, illegitimate and immoral regime. The murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento brings to a new and higher level the outrage of the people. His martyrdom arouses us to heighten our fighting will and capabilities in order to get rid of the Arroyo regime as soon as possible. It also inspires us for a long time to come to fight for national liberation, democracy, social justice and peace. ###