October 24, 2011

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Justice for Melissa Campaign

The Justice for Melissa campaign expresses its deepest condolences to the families of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and Ramon Batoy.  The Justice for Melissa campaign condemns the brutal extra-judicial killings of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and farmer activist Ramon Batoy, two individuals that were defenders of the Arakan valley, the land and its people.

Fr. Tentorio, an Italian missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was shot dead within the compound of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish on October 17, 2011.  Fr. Pops, an anti-mining activist, was also a Board Member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Southern Mindanao and the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.  Fr. Tentorio answered the humble calling to live a simple life among the people, to serve the people, especially those in most need, the most oppressed. For more than 30 years, Fr. Pops devoted his life to the service of the indigenous “lumads” and peasants of the Southern Philippines.

Within the week of Fr. Pops’ slaying, farmer Ramon Batoy was extra-judicially killed inside his own home in Arakan.  According to the latest reports from the human rights organization, Karapatan, members of Batoy’s family and neighbors were illegally detained, tortured and harassed by the military. The government cover-up of the extra-judicial killing uses the storyline that Batoy and his neighbor were members of the New People’s Army.

“The brutal culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines does not discriminate.  As an American that has survived enforced disappearance and torture in the Philippines, my heart goes out to the Tentorio and Batoy families and the communities they served.  The civilian death toll under the on-going counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, continues to rise, and it is not just Filipino blood that has been shed.  The international community must respond to these latest human rights atrocities that have claimed the life of another Filipino citizen and an Italian priest,” said Melissa Roxas.  “The government’s on-going criminalization and extra-judicial killings of activists and advocates like Ramon Batoy and Fr. Pops must end.  We must continue to advocate internationally, from Geneva to the Vatican, so that peace with justice will one day prevail.”

The Justice for Melissa campaign joins the growing international clamor for justice.  We call for an immediate, comprehensive and fair investigation of these human rights violations.  We call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to address the following:

  1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the incident in Sitio Upper Lumbo, Kabalantian village, Municipality of Arakan, North Cotabato, which led to the killing of Ramon Batoy, the arrest of Noli Badol and Celso Batoy, and the forcible evacuation of 48 households from their homes.
  2. The immediate release of Noli Badol and Celso Batoy from unjust detention.
  3. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders and innocent civilians as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
  4. The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innnocent and unarmed civilians.
  5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

End Impunity In the Philippines!