UPDATE (Philippines): Colleague of murdered bishop receives death threats


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-001-2008
ISSUES: Human rights defenders, Threats and intimidation,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that another colleague of the late Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC), a prominent human rights defender murdered in October 2006, has been receiving renewed threats to his life over his mobile phone. The sender of the SMS also claims they were responsible in robbing and murdering Bishop Ramento. There are concerns that the incidents of the recent break-in at his church and convent could be a prelude to an attempt on his life. This was the same method used when Bishop Ramento was murdered.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on the victim’s account)

As described in our previous appeal (UA-331-2006), Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church), was murdered in his convent on 3 October 2006. The police have declared his case solved rejecting his relatives and colleagues concerns that his death could have been premeditated. He had been receiving threats to his life because of his involvement on human rights work, particularly the struggle of the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, but the police rejected suggestions that this could have motivated his killing.

On 8 December 2006, two months after Bishop Ramento’s death, one of his colleagues, Reverend Father Gilbert Garcia, reported to the police that his church in Barangay (village) Poblacion Sur, San Clemente in Tarlac, had been robbed by unidentified person. Reverend Gilbert was not present when it happened. The robbers broke into the rear door of the church where they gained entry. They stole his wallet containing cash and papers from his room.

When that incident happened, a witness noticed an unidentified man standing in front of the church. The witness, however, was not able to recognize the person because it was dark.

No unusual incidents have been reported for sometime in the church and convent where he is staying until November 28 and December 1, 2007. On these days the Church’s DVD (digital video disk) player placed at the altar and stock of rice went missing.

After the said incidents, on December 3, Reverend Gilbert had started receiving threatening messages on his mobile phone. The SMS sent to him was written in Tagalog;

“FR. KUMUSTA KANA, MASAKIT ANG MAWALAN DIBA. HINDI KA NATATAKOT. DIBA NAMATAY OBISPO NIYO NANAKAWAN PA SIYA. KAMI YON. KAMI DIN ANG NAGNAKAW SAYO KAYA MAG-INGAT KA LAST ANG MAWALAN KA IKAW NA ANG SUSUNOD NA MAWAWALA. (Father how are you. It pains to have lost someone, right? Isn’t it that your bishop died and he was also robbed? We were responsible for it. We were also responsible in breaking into your place. Be careful, you will be next)

Also on December 12, Reverend Gilbert received another threatening message from a sender using mobile phone number +639289457701 which read: “PAG UWI MO SA BAHAY MO INGAT KA LANG. PAPATAYIN KA TALAGA NAMIN. REST IN PEACE. (When you go home be careful. We will surely kill you.) The AHRC tried calling the number but found the phone unattended.

Reverend Gilbert reported all these incidents to the municipal police station in San Clemente, Tarlac. However, the AHRC is not aware of any action taken to ensure his safety apart from recording his statements. A certified copy of the summary of the report dated 18 December 2007 he made to the police was obtained by the AHRC.


Twenty-five-year-old Reverend Gilbert Garcia is a native of San Gavino, Victoria, Tarlac. He completed his Licentiate in Theology (LTh) and Bachelor in Theology (BTh) in 2004 and 2005 respectively at the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS).

He is presently the parish priest of the PIC in San Clemente, Tarlac. He is also a member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). When he was a student, he was the chairperson of the Seminarians on Transformation and Nationalism (SOTANA) and Council of Seminarians (COS).

When he was at the seminary, he was supportive of the struggle of the poor against poverty and oppression, particularly in the provinces of Pangasinan and Tarlac, Northern Philippines.

In Pangasinan, his organization SOTANA opposed the construction of the second largest dam in Asia (San Roque Dam). Hundreds of families were forcibly displaced from their lands where they were living and cultivating; and were deprived of their means of livelihood to give way to the construction of the project.

In January 2002, he also supported the struggle of laborers at the La Tondena Distillers Co. in Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. His organization, SOTANA, condemned the unjust management of the said company. They also criticized the company for its refusal to increase their worker’s salary, payment of benefits and to reinstate the union leaders they dismissed.

His group also supported the farm workers who held a strike at Hacienda Luisita on 6 November 2004. His colleague, Bishop Ramento and some clergy of the diocese of Tarlac, also actively supported the demands of the farm workers and tenants to increase their salary, better working condition, genuine land reform and a demilitarized community.

After his other colleague, Fr. William Tadena, was killed on March 2005, he and some of their colleagues in the diocese also received SMS threatening to kill them: “isang bala para sa ulo mo! rapanike u! bang! ukinam!” (one bullet for your head). Everybody was alarmed by this threat. Fr. William was the Parish Priest of Lapaz, Tarlac, Chairman of the Social Concern Committee of the PIC Diocese of Tarlac, PCPR member and, peace and justice advocate. Please read for further details: UP-26-2005.

During Bishop Ramento’s murder he was tasked by their church to act as the spokesperson of the diocese concerning his case. He had also lived with Bishop Ramento during his college days in Tarlac City. During his stay with him he has since started getting involved in working with peoples’ organizations.

Please write letters to the authorities below requesting for their intervention to ensure the safety of Reverend Father Gilbert Garcia. Those responsible for threatening him must be identified and appropriate action must be taken against them. The AHRC writes a separate letter to the UN Special Representatives to the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders calling for the intervention in this matter.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ____________,

PHILIPPINES: Colleague of murdered bishop receives death threats

Victim facing threat: Reverend father Gilbert Garcia, parish priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church (PIC)) in San Clemente, Tarlac
Persons responsible of threatening him: Unidentified persons using mobile phone number +639289457701
Date of incident: December 3 and 12, 2007
Place of incident: San Clemente, Tarlac

I am writing to express my deep concern to the threats made on the life of Reverend Father Gilbert Garcia, parish priest of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) in San Clemente, Tarlac. Reverend Gilbert is the colleague of PIC Bishop Alberto Ramento, a prominent human rights defender murdered in 3 October 2006 also in Tarlac.

I have learned that the threat on Reverend Gilbert started two months after Bishop Ramento’s murder. Like Bishop Ramento, there were also incidents of break-in into the church and convent where he was staying. On December 2006, thieves break into his convent stealing wallet from his room which contains cash and documents on it.

Reverend Gilbert once again noticed renewed incidents of break in into his church and convent in November 28 and December 1, 2007 respectively. Their church’s DVD (digital video disk) player and stock of rice has gone missing. I am deeply concerned however that this incidents of break-in could have another intention. I have learned that on December 3, Reverend Gilbert started receiving threatening SMS messages warning him that he would be killed next. He was also told that they are responsible in murdering of Bishop Ramento and recent incidents of break in into his church are their doings.

Also on December 12, Reverend Gilbert received another SMS from a sender using number +639289457701 telling him that he should be careful because they would surely kill him.

Though I acknowledge the police’ effort to record this incidents, I am disappointed that there was no further actions taken to investigate this case to identify those involved in the break-in at his church. He was also not afforded with any protection and security to ensure his safety. I am deeply concerned that the robberies that have taken place recently could be a prelude to murdering him as what had also happened before Bishop Ramento was killed.

I am aware that Reverend Gilbert, as a colleague of Bishop Ramento, has been actively and deeply involved in the activities defending the human rights and workers rights in his area as part of his ministry. I am gravely concern that the renewed threats and incidents of robberies at his place is had connections with his work and ministry.

I therefore urge you to take adequate and reasonable actions in this case. The concerned authorities, in particular the police, must afford him without delay protection he requires. I also urge you to investigate further to identify those responsible.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph

2. Mrs. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: drpvq@yahoo.com

3. Deputy Director General Avelino Razon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
E-mail: bluetree73@gmail.com

4. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice (DoJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: agnesdeva@yahoo.com

5. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
AFP-GHQ Offices, Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 911 6436
Tel: +63 2 911 6001 to 50

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)
For your information, the AHRC would start using these new codes below beginning this year:

AHRC-UAC-001-2008 — Urgent Appeal Case
AHRC-UAU-001-2008 — Urgent Appeal Update
AHRC-UAG-001-2008 — Urgent Appeal General
AHRC-FUA-001-2008 — Forwarded Urgent Appeal
AHRC-HAC-001-2008 — Hunger Alert Case
AHRC-HAU-001-2008 — Hunger Alert Update
AHRC-HAG-001-2008 — Hunger Alert General

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-001-2008
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Threats and intimidation,