Bishop condemns killing of Church worker
A portrait of Wilerme Agorde is displayed outside his home in Brgy. Illustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato. Agorde, a social action worker of the Kidapawan diocesan, was gunned down by unidentified men on Feb. 19. (Nassa photo)
MANILA — A Catholic bishop has condemned the assassination of a social action worker of the Diocese of Kidapawan in southern Philippines.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said it is alarming that even a Church worker who has been working for the poor fell victim to ‘extrajudicial killings’.
The prelate deplored the killing of Wilerme Agorde, a 64-year-old peasant leader and worked as project coordinator of the agrarian reform program of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa).
“We condemn the many extrajudicial killings happening today which have become so common,” Bagaforo said.
The recent murder of Wilerme “Ka Wiling” Agorde, according to him, is causing fear and insecurity among civilians particularly among the human rights and peace advocates in the area.
Agorde, 64, was stabbed and gunned down in the presence of his grandchildren by unidentified assailants in Brgy. Illustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato last Feb. 19.
He has been at the forefront of a campaign with his fellow farmers who have been struggling for decades for ownership of the unused agricultural land-reservation in Arakan town.
About 5,000-hectare property is owned by University of Southern Mindanao but the 1,000-hectare portion was allocated to the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology.
According to Nassa, the disputed land had been occupied by the farmers for several decades.
Last Feb 9, the Department of Agrarian Reform voiced support for the the distribution of land reservation for the 2,110 potential beneficiaries during the dialogue conducted with the Commission on Higher Education.
The Nassa said this recent development indicates that the farmers “are winning in the agrarian campaign”.
“However, the killing of Ka Wiling is interpreted by the community as a way to silence the leaders in defending their land rights,” it said.
“The land conflict is escalating as the farmer groups are momentum in pursuing their land rights,” the Nassa added.
The killing of Agorde was reportedly the third farmer-leader slain in North Cotabato this February alone.
Church leaders are appealing to the authorities to stop the escalation of killings among farmers and their leaders.
“Other farmer leaders in Arakan are now in hiding for fear of their lives. They must not be included in the list of casualties in the on-going land rights problem within the school reservation,” the Nassa said.
Agorde was also known as a long time church worker in various ministries. He was a lector, Basic Ecclesial Community Coordinator, and coordinator of the Justice and Peace Integrity of Creation Program.
He was also a member of the Arakan parish team since the time of Italian priest Father Fausto Tentorio who was brutally killed in 2011 and whose case remains unsolved until now.
“We do not know of their deaths can ever obtain justice since Fr. Tentorio’s murder and other killings are still waiting for fair investigation,” Bagaforo said.