A Liturgical Forum to commemorate the 3rd death anniversary of Benjamin Bayles was held on 14 June, 2013 at the National Cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, attended by its bishops, priests, and lay members, along with friends from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the broad ecumenical circle and people’s organizations.
Benjamin “Benjie” Bayles was a lay minister in the Diocese of Negros Occidental. On 14 June 2010, he was shot 15 times by the men in skimask, riding in tandem. The Department of National Defense admitted in 2012 that the apprehended assasins were elements of the Philippine Army.
Bishop Lito Cruz, Convenor of the National Task Force Bayles, said in his welcome speech that “the death of our modern martyrs must be a source of inspirations for us to continue their fight for life in abundance,” as he also recalled the death of Bishop Alberto Ramento, Revd William Tadena, journalist Jovelito Agustin and lay worker Gilbert Paborada.
NardySabino, General Secretary of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), in his presentation of the national situation, commented that “in the three years of Aquino reign, nothing has changed as the killings continue.” Ramento Project for Rights Defenders’ (RPRD) Executive Director, Revd Jonas Joyohoy, said 144 human rights defenders have already been killed under Aquino.
Marilou Santos of KADAMAY, an urban poor organization in Manila, presented the plight of the rural poor suffering from violent demolitions under the Public–Private Partnership scheme of the government. There were already 12 Metro Manila-based urban poor leaders and advocates opposed to demolition who were killed.
Bishop Cruz said the Church amidst the killings of her bishop, clergy and faithful must endure these trying and difficult times. As she journey with the people towards the realization of genuine and lasting peace based on social justice, she must be ready for the cost of being true to her mission.
The forum ended with an advocacy march along Taft Avenue to drum up church people’s call to the Aquino government to stop political killings and end impunity in the Philippines.