Arroyo government plotted and carried out Fr. Lucero’s murder

By NDFP Eastern Visayas

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today accused the Arroyo government of planning and carrying out the dastardly murder of Fr. Cecilio Lucero, a well-known peace and human rights advocate who served as parish priest of Catubig town and chairman of the human rights committee of the Catarman diocese in Northern Samar.

Fr. Lucero was shot and killed by assailants in bonnets and military uniform in San Jose, Northern Samar, yesterday Sept. 6 while his two companions were wounded. "Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself virtually signed Fr. Lucero's death warrant," said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. "When Arroyo inaugurated the Catubig Bridge last June 16, eyewitnesses say she publicly denounced Fr. Lucero as "that communist priest" in front of Gen. Arthur Tabaquero and other high civilian and military officials. By doing so, Arroyo gave the signal to her military minions to kill Fr. Lucero in line with Oplan Bantay Laya's political killings of progressives."

The NDF-EV spokesperson also said that Fr. Lucero had long been fending off death threats from the military because of his criticism of government policies and human rights abuses in Northern Samar, where there are intensified military operations under Oplan Bantay Laya. "The friends of Fr. Lucero have expressed concern for his life because suspected military intelligence agents have been shadowing him. He was also once accosted and nearly abducted at a military checkpoint, where it not for the intercession of his politician brother. Though he came from a prominent family in Northern Samar, Fr. Lucero was humble, progressive and pro-people, which made him a target of the greedy, vicious and pro-imperialist Arroyo regime."

Fr. Salas also said that the deplorable political killing sours anew the already contentious preparations for the resumption of peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government. "The NDFP is always open to peace negotiations, but the Arroyo government remains unscrupulous and malicious by refusing to honor its commitments and by trying to force the surrender of the revolutionary forces. Why should the NDFP lay down its arms and surrender, when even civilians involved in peaceful struggle are being killed by the Arroyo regime? While the Arroyo regime pays lip service to peace, its military and police are busy arresting NDFP peace consultants such as Eduardo Sarmiento and other political prisoners on false criminal charges, as well as attacking civilian activists such as Fr. Lucero and their communities in the cities and the countryside."

The NDF-EV spokesperson also called on the people to continue the struggle of Fr. Cecilio Lucero and to turn their grief into the commitment to struggle for a just and lasting peace. "Fr. Lucero's death is a bitter lesson for the Catholic Church in Eastern Visayas, which has been often courted by the civilian government and the military for reactionary maneuvers such as "local peace talks" and "peace zones". We in the NDF-EV often counsel the Catholic Church and other peace advocates not to be drawn into such tactics by the government, which are meant to divide the people and avoid fundamental changes for a meaningful peace.

Today, we in the NDF-EV again call on the Catholic Church to avoid lying down with wolves who are dripping with the blood of innocents such as Fr. Lucero. The murder of Fr. Lucero and other political killings under Oplan Bantay Laya only firm up our resolve to persevere in the fight for justice, freedom and democracy towards ending the Arroyo regime. Let us expose, oppose and defeat Oplan Bantay Laya, bring those responsible for political killings to justice, and bring the Arroyo regime to account for its many crimes of corruption, human rights violations and betrayals of the national interest."