QUEZON CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – A Catholic clergy had been abducted by gunmen and tortured into linking a detained pastor to the underground communist movement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said Tuesday.
It said Pastor Rodel Canja, of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), was forcibly taken at gunpoint earlier this month in southern Luzon and was freed after being tortured for four days.
The gunmen, believed to be soldiers or policemen, also threatened to kill Canja’s family if he reports his ordeal to anybody.
PCPR Secretary General Amie Dural said Canja was seized while was on his way to the annual conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
“One man casually invited him to ride in the van and warned him not to ask any question. Inside the van, another man pointed a gun at him while the man who invited him to ride in the van placed a handkerchief in his nose that left him unconscious,” Dural told the CBCP.
Dural said when the pastor regained his consciousness, the men began torturing and interrogating him about UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero, now detained at a police base in Imus town in Cavite province.
Guerrero was abducted May 27 last year by gunmen who accused him of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and since then has been detained without charges.
“For four days, two to of the four men alternately interrogated Pastor Canja about Pastor Berlin and two other UCCP ministers. While clicking their guns, the men repeatedly asked Pastor Canja to confirm that Pastor Berlin was a member of the “P”, a code referring to CPP,” Dural said.
Dural said one of the abductors fired his gun while interrogating the clergy. Canja’s wallet and money were also confiscated. “And when they saw the pictures of his two siblings, they threatened the pastor they will kill his siblings if he would ever talk about his experience,” Dural said, adding, Canja is now suffering from psychological trauma brought about by his ordeal.
“With the hundreds of cases of abductions and extra-judicial killings in the country, the Armed Forces of the Philippines mastered the scheme of identifying legitimate people's organizations as 'front' of the CPP. The Armed Forces of the Philippines insists on linking activist citizens to the CPP and its armed group to justify attacks on their lives and liberty,” Dural said.
Since President Gloria Arroyo took power in 2001, at least 27 church people, including Bishop Alberto Ramento, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, had been killed. Hundreds of political activists, accused of being supporters of the CPP, were also abducted and killed by suspected government soldiers. (With reports from the CBCP)