Justice Still Eludes Slain UCCP Pastor

BY JOHANN HEIN B. ARPON
Bulatlat.com

Emma Lapuz laments the fact that one year after the assassination of her husband, Rev. Edison Lapuz, conference minister of the North East Leyte Conference, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the killers have yet to be brought to justice.

Emma Lapuz laments the fact that one year after the assassination of her husband, Rev. Edison Lapuz, conference minister of the North East Leyte Conference, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the killers have yet to be brought to justice.

“Our present regime is not serious in cracking down on these bad elements that destroy the peace and order of our country,” Mrs. Lapuz said in a May 12 forum at the College of Health and Sciences, St. Scholastica’s College in Tacloban City. “Police authorities promised that they will do their best to identify and arrest the assassins but that was a year ago and since then, none of them have been arrested.”

Reverend Lapuz, at the time of his assassination, was the chairperson of Katungod, the Eastern Visayas chapter of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) and a founding member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response-Eastern Visayas (PCPR-EV).

He was also the main convenor of the Justice for Attorney Dacut Alliance. Lawyer Felidito Dacut, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna (People First)-Eastern Visayas, was killed a few weeks before Reverend Lapuz.

Reverend Lapuz had just come from his father-in-law’s burial in San Isidro, Leyte on May 12 last year when he was shot by two unidentified men wearing what appeared to be long-sleeved shirts. Both were standing about two meters away from him. He sustained a bullet wound each in the left temple and the stomach: the shot to his left temple killed him on the spot.

A companion, Alfredo Malinao, a peasant leader in the same town, was shot in the chest. He was rushed to the nearest hospital where he died.

Then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., who at that time was assigned to Eastern Visayas as commanding officer of the regional Philippine Army command, said the underground New People’s Army (NPA) killed Reverend Lapuz and Dacut to gain the sympathy of the people.

A report by a UCCP documentation team that visited San Isidro last year following Reverend Lapuz’s assassination, revealed that Lapuz was one of 30 Eastern Visayas personalities in the military’s order of battle at the time he was killed. The same documentation team also reported that a few months before Reverend Lapuz’s assassination, soldiers had been frequenting the house of his father, introducing themselves as UCCP members, and fishing for information on his activities and whereabouts.

UCCP pastors led the liturgy at the forum at St. Scholastica’s College. During the homily they praised Rev. Edison Lapuz for giving the “ultimate sacrifice of becoming a people’s martyr – a true pastor who preached and lived the Gospel’s teaching of peace based on justice.”

“Reverend Lapuz’s death was not only a loss to our human rights alliance but for all Filipinos who aspire one day to live the fullness of God’s creation here on earth by struggling for justice and peace,” a statement by Katungod read. “His life served as inspiration to fuel our continuing struggle to advance human rights as the people of the region banded together and successfully kicked Palparan out of the region in August 2005.”

As co-convenor of the Justice for Attorney Dacut Alliance, Abet Hidalgo, chairperson of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) chapter in Leyte, shared how they and Reverend Lapuz came up with the idea of continuing Dacut’s legacy of lawyering for the poor. He said that though Reverend Lapuz was killed, his hope for lawyers for the poor is alive now with their active legal aid program.

The IBP-Leyte chapter’s Legal Aid Program is handling the case of the Palo Massacre committed by the 19th Infantry Battalion against peasants in Palo, Leyte.

As part of the call to action, the participants were invited to the launching of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties (MCCCL)-Eastern Visayas as the “continuing expression of the people’s search for justice and their struggle against the onslaught of state fascism under the Arroyo administration.��� (Bulatlat.com)

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