“I know they are going to kill me next, but never will I abandon my duty to God and my ministry to the people.” — Bishop Alberto B. Ramento D.D., ninth supreme bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who was found murdered Oct. 3, 2006 inside his rectory in Tarlac.
I last saw and heard Bishop Ramento on June 12 this year, as he joined other religious leaders in the interfaith prayer for the nation that focused on our Evil President’s twin tactics to perpetuate herself in power — Charter change and extrajudicial killings. True to his church’s militant, nay, revolutionary heritage, Ramento spoke unstintingly and unapologetically along nationalist and democratic lines. Though he was quick to add that it was not just his view, but that of the entire IFI supreme council of bishops.
His sense of pride is well-grounded for the IFI bishops are not politically naive. They see beyond Charter change as Arroyo’s ploy at self-preservation. In his scathing speech that drew applause from organizations of peasants and workers, and progressive partylists and their congressional representatives, Ramento said that what is most abominable in Charter change is the attempt to further sell the national patrimony and economy, especially land that should belong to Filipino farmers.
I also saw him at DLSU during the public sessions of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability that tried and convicted Arroyo for a long list of crimes and atrocities against the Filipino people. As member of the presidium that heard testimonies and received pieces of evidence on Arroyo’s many liabilities, Ramento sent Malacañang a moral rebuke.
As other churches refused to minister to the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita in 2004, Ramento was there, consistently and vocally supporting the strike and condemning the barbaric treatment the workers get from the Cojuangco’s and the government. Even after he lost Fr. William Tadena, an IFI priest closely identified with the Hacienda Luisita strikers, he did not waver but maintained his stand in solidarity with the farmworkers.
In this time of war and warmongering, Ramento’s memory offers us a glimpse of what should actually be happening. He was an active advocate of negotiations between the National Democratic Front and the Philippine government, even acting as third party depository.
Ramento was a true ecumenical leader who sought dialogue among bishops from various churches. He was co-chairperson with Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, which has issued rather militant and radical statements on many national issues, oftentimes deploring the immorality of the Arroyo government.
Of late, Ramento was active in speaking out against extrajudicial killings, even as he received death threats from those who hated his guts and his commitment to God and country. But as true modern-day prophet, he persisted in serving the Filipino people and never showed any sign of retreat or fear.
Ramento’s martyrdom single-handedly shoved the IFI to centerstage where it rightfully belongs as the country’s national and nationalist church. From the statements of the bishops, priests and lay folk of the IFI who marched yesterday to Liwasang Bonifacio, I reckon that they are not scared either, and vowed to carry on the fight to inspire the people to attain a prosperous life under a government of genuine national fredom and authentic democracy.
As to the canard that he was murdered by robbers, I refuse to dignify the embicility of the Philippine National Police. Attorney Rex Fernandez and the independent fact-finding mission he led have confirmed the doubts of the IFI officialdom and Ramento family — the robbery spin may be a ruse to hide the truth because all signs point to a well-planned and determined attempt to kill, not rob. Ramento sustained at least six wounds — three in front (one puncturing his heart), and three at the back (one puncturing his lungs) — which led the person who performed a autopsy on his body to say: The wounds tell us that the perpetrator wanted him killed, period.
The PNP’s embicility is self-evident. The PNP would rather portray Tarlac as a haven of thieves and murderers. It would rather say that a band of murderers roams Tarlac inspite of heavy military and police presence in the area. The Evil President is the only one happy with the embility of the PNP, and their paid hacks of course.
More tributes are forthcoming for Bishop Ramento even after his remains are cremated today. At a time when evil reigns, his memory is a beacon of hope to our people. His memory will forever haunt Arroyo and the many social ills she stands for. His place in our history is forever secure; he is now part of our pantheon of beloved heroes and martyrs.