Philippine Military Accused of Harassing Church Operations
A committee of 10 Roman Catholic and Protestant representatives accused the military on Friday of increasingly harassing church operations and of persistent human rights abuses in the southern Philippines.
The committee made the charges at a news conference after a weeklong tour of three provinces on southern Mindanao Island, where troops are fighting communist insurgents.
The committee was to set up investigate the April 11 killing, allegedly by local militiamen, of Father Tullio Favali, an Italian priest, in southern Cotabato Province. But the committee also reported on what they said were incidents by the military of bombings, shootings, and forced evacuations from villages.
As examples of attempts to discredit church officials, the committee reported that newsletters were being circulated depicting Catholic priests as taking mistresses or committing subversive acts.
It said government officials in Zamboanga del Sur province supported a “fanatical group called 4KS to counter Catholics whom authorities brand as subversives.”
Father Peter Geremia, Favali’s Italian co-worker and a committee member, said the church was being persecuted “maybe because it has been showing concern for the plight of people” and frustrating attempts by those “who want to have a free hand in brutality.”
The committee showed photographs of bodies of a family of eight after they allegedly were shot at close range by soldiers last month in one province.
It reported other killings of civilians, the slaughter of farm animals and the looting of villages by the military.