HRW: Murders of priests, journalists 'matter of grave concern'

MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday, June 14, condemned the recent killings of Catholic priests and journalists in the Philippines, calling the incidents "a matter of grave concern."

"These killings, alongside the thousands of deaths in the drug war, are grim reminders of the vulnerability of the poor and those who speak out for their rights and against the deadly extrajudicial violence that Philippine authorities are apparently unwilling or unable to either stop or provide accountability for," HRW Asia Division's Carlos Conde said.

Three members of the clergy – Father Richmond Nilo in Nueva Ecija, Father Mark Anthony Ventura in Cagayan, and Father Marcelito Paez in another part of Nueva Ecija – have been killed since December 2017.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a statement, called on President Rodrigo Duterte "to stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic Church."

Malacañang on Wednesday, June 13, condemned the killings of the 3 priests, but remained silent on calls for Duterte to stop his tirades against the Church. 

Meanwhile, Davao publisher Dennis Denora is the 6th journalist to be murdered since the Duterte administration started, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Conde said the killings underscore the importance for international accountability mechanisms "to intensify their response to the worsening human rights catastrophe in the Philippines."

Aside from this, HRW added that it is high time for foreign governments and donors to reassess their engagement with Manila to ensure that the aid they provide "do not in any way fund or enable any elements of the military and the police implicated in human rights abuses." –

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.