Bishop's nephew in latest Philippines political shooting

Jesuit bishop Francisco Claver has lashed out at the Philippines military following last week's brutal shooting of his doctor nephew, Constancio Claver, and the nephew's wife, Alice, in Kalinga province north of Manila.

According to UCA News, unidentified men riding in two vans reportedly shot at the vehicle of Dr Claver, 49, on 31 July as he and his wife Alice, 42, were driving away from St Toni's College in the Bulanao community, 315 km north of Manila.

Mrs Claver died hours after bullets hit her in the head, neck and shoulders. By 2 August, doctors declared Dr Claver no longer in critical condition.

Their seven-year-old daughter, riding in the car during the ambush, was not harmed physically, but a college student in the vicinity of the ambush was injured.

Mrs Claver's death was the latest in a series of killings that have riven Philippines society.

UCA News quotes Bishop Francisco Claver as saying that his nephew and his nephew's wife were working for social reforms through legal means when they were ambushed.

Bishop Claver said that Dr Claver was chairman of the Kalinga chapter of the Bayan Muna (nation first) congressional political party, in which Alice was also active.

The bishop mentioned he has heard that the couple received threats. "As far as I know, they were warned," he recalled. "They told the military, but the military did not do anything about it. We really don't know" who issued the threats. Bishop Claver also observed that the military denies "a lot" of summary killings for which they are blamed.

"I know my nephew was a doctor, and as a doctor he used to treat NPA (communist-led New People's Army) in the field," the Bishop said. This was before Dr Claver "joined up with Bayan Muna, which is parliamentarian, political left, but still within the parliamentarian system."

Bishop Claver noted that the recent attacks reflect an apparent standard operating procedure, to "pick out Bayan Muna" political leaders. During late president Ferdinand Marcos' martial law regime (1972-1981), he also recalled, killers "went after people in the underground," while public dissenters, similar to members of Bayan Muna today, were 'safe.'"

The spate of killings has led the Bishop to ask if the ambushes are part of the intensified anti-Communist campaign that President Gloria Arroyo recently announced.

But he also wonders if it may be, "as some suggest, part of internal fighting among leftist factions advocating violent versus non-violent parliamentary" methods for change.

Moreover, he added, "there is also the possibility that the CPP (outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines) is doing all this to stir up problems for the government."

Photo: Constancio and Alice Claver, Bulatlat

Bishop Says Ambushed Couple Worked Legally For Societal Change (UCA News, 3/8/06)
Open letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Reporters without borders, 2/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Francisco Claver (Catholic-hierarchy.org)
Bishop Francisco Claver (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
The Encounter between the Gospel and the values of the Indigenous People in Asia: Challenges of the Future (East Asia Pastoral Institute)
Reporters Without Borders

Philippines Church officials criticise Vatican declaration (CathNews, 11/9/00)
Catholic reporter shot dead in Philippines

Kalinga Folk Bury Alyce as Protest Mounts vs Death Squads (Bulatlat, 6-12 August, 2006)
Christian Religious Leaders unite to protest 'Political Killings' (Indian Catholic, 5/8/06)
Student Leader, Activist's Wife, Journalist murdered (Philippines Headline News, 1/8/06)

7 Aug 2006