|Photo by Borj Meneses Flickr|
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines— Fr. Eddie Panlilio, former governor of Pampanga, now heads a group of human rights defenders in Central Luzon.
Panlilio, 57, was elected chair of the Defend-Central Luzon at the close of a two-day conference supported by the European Union-Philippines Justice Support Program (Epjust) here on Saturday.
Officials of the organizing groups—Max de Mesa, chair of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (Pahra), and Aurora Broquil, chair of the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya in the region—said the 100 delegates in the conference voted for the priest because of his sincerity and credibility.
Panlilio said he accepted the position to help the cause of protecting human rights and seeking justice for victims and their families.
Speaking at the conference, Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said he supported the cause following findings that among the provinces where extrajudicial killings were reported between 2001 and August 2010, Pampanga recorded the highest number of incidents and victims.
Panlilio is a member of Kaya Natin!, a group that promotes ethical and good governance, and the People’s Crusade for Pampanga, a civil society movement in the province.
Aniceto has yet to lift the suspension of Panlilio’s priestly faculties, which explains why the latter has not been celebrating Mass and other rites such as confession, baptism and marriage since May 2007 when he ran and won as governor. Panlilio lost in his reelection bid last year.
Aniceto declined to discuss the prospect of Panlilio’s return to the active priesthood.
“There’s a process,” he told the Inquirer. “Among (Father) Ed has no corruption record. He brought in many reforms to the capitol.”
“I’ve always considered priesthood as a form of service to God and country and whether I’m in or out, nagsisilbi pa rin po tayo (we are still serving),” Panlilio said.
Defend-CL, he said, would help bring human rights to the national agenda.
Detlev Mehlis, Epjust team leader, said human rights defenders played the “most important role” in monitoring how the government defends human rights, in preventing violations and seeking justice for victims.
“Having a freely elected government is great, but its performance has to be monitored … Action is what counts and human rights defenders are at the forefront of the action and monitoring,” Mehlis said.
The study, “Report on the Philippine Extrajudicial Killings: 2001-August 2010,” showed that of 305 incidents and 390 victims during those years, Central Luzon had the most number of incidents, at 62, and victims, at 72.
By province, Pampanga had the most number of victims at 41, followed by Negros Occidental at 39 and Northern Samar, 33, according to the study supported by the US Agency for International Development and the Asia Foundation.
Mehlis said human rights protection “can only be implemented by the government through strong and independent courts, determined prosecution service and powerful legislators.” Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon