UCA News
Another journalist killing adds to grim toll in Philippines

Percival Mabasa, a hard-hitting radio commentator, is the latest in a long line of targeted killings of newspersons in Philippines, a Catholic-majority nation often dubbed as one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists.

Published: October 07, 2022 11:08 AM GMT

Updated: October 07, 2022 11:54 AM GMT

This week, killing of another journalist shocked the Philippines. The 63-year-old Percival Mabasa, an outspoken radio journalist known for his strong criticism of the Duterte and Marcos administrations, was shot dead in Las Pinas city near the Philippine capital Manila on Monday.

The murder has sparked renewed concerns in a country known as one of the most dangerous places for journalists. Mabasa hosted an online radio program, “Lapid Fire,” where he criticized the government on topics such as extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.

He slammed former president Rodrigo Duterte’s support for online offshore gaming involving Chinese nationals whereas offshore gaming is banned in China. He had also been vocal against so-called red-tagging – the malicious labeling of individuals or groups as “terrorists” or “communists” for criticizing the government.

Mabasa is the second journalist killed during the new Marcos administration. Since 1986, some 195 journalists have been killed and most cases have not seen justice. During the martial law era from 1972-1986, about 71 journalists were killed and tortured.

Percival Mabasa, 63, was shot and killed in Manila on Oct 3

Percival Mabasa, 63, was shot and killed in Manila on Oct 3. (Photo supplied)

The Pontificate: Contribute to help UCA News

Catholic Church in India has opposed a ruling from the Supreme Court that allowed unmarried women in a consensual relationship to have safe and legal abortions.

During the order, last Thursday, the three-judge bench of the top court emphasized a women’s right to bodily autonomy without the need for authorization from a third party to get an abortion. The judges said the exclusion of unmarried women who conceive out of a live-in relationship from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003 was unconstitutional.

An Indian activist holds a model of a fetus during a protest against illegal abortions in New Delhi on Nov. 26, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Indian law specifies seven different categories of women who are entitled to abortion access between 20 and 24 weeks of gestation including survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors, and women with a change in marital status during an ongoing pregnancy. A Divine Word priest and former spokesperson for Indian Catholic bishops said that the Supreme Court ruling will have adverse consequences on the life of a fetus and its right to live.

He insisted that the Church always upholds the dignity of human life as a sign of God’s continued love for human beings. Kerala Catholic Bishops Council expressed great concerns and insisted that every fetus is a human life from the beginning and therefore, it should be protected.

Minority Hindus in Bangladesh celebrated their largest annual religious festival, Durga Puja, in the shadow of fear stemming from rising sectarian attacks against them. The Hindu community marked the 10-day Durga Puja that ended on Wednesday.

During the festival, more than 32000 Durga Puja mandaps or canopies were set up across Bangladesh where the government deployed police and elite security forces to ensure security, and thwart any possible extremist attack. Hindu leaders said though no violence was reported during the fest this year, they are sad to celebrate the festival in fear and amid heavy security arrangements.

A Durga Puja scene in Bangladesh. (Photo: Stephan Uttom)

Last year, Muslim mobs attacked several Durga Puja venues over the alleged desecration of the Quran. Besides security forces, Hindu volunteers have guarded Puja venues to avoid any untoward incidents.

A rights group documented 3,600 attacks against Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh since 2013. This year, 22 Hindu religious sites were attacked, and seven Hindus were sued for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of Muslims. 

Rights groups have urged Thailand not to push back Myanmar refugees into the conflict-torn Karen state. The appeal came after a boat carrying a group of students sank in the fast-flowing Moei river on the Thai-Myanmar border last Thursday. The students were forced to swim to safety and were in trauma. The students had earlier sheltered on the Thai side of the border and were forced to return to Myanmar.

Fearing violence and deaths many villagers forced back from Thailand have been stranded on the riverbank. Video footage on social media showed dozens of people on a boat amid the rain as local officials pushed them back. The refugees included children, the elderly and sick people.

This photo taken on Jan 15, 2022 shows Myanmar refugees, who fled a surge in violence as the military cracks down on rebel groups, rest after crossing a river on the border in Thailand's Mae Sot district. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations reported that more than 20,000 refugees have crossed into Thailand since fighting erupted in Myanmar since the military coup last February.

In the Christian-majority Karen state at least 150,000 have been internally displaced and are in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter. Over the years, long-running fighting between the military and Karen rebels has already left 100,000 refugees along the Thai border. 

Catholics in Cambodia welcomed a native Church leader to lead a Catholic prefecture for the first time after the end of Khmer Rouge rule five decades ago.

The installation of 51-year-old Father Pierre Suon Hangly as the new apostolic prefect of Kampong Cham last Saturday was hailed as a historic turning point for the local church. Bishop Bruno Cosme of Paris Foreign Mission Society or MEP, the apostolic administrator of Kampong Cham for the past three years, said it is “a historic event and important step for the Church in Cambodia.”

Father Pierre Suon Hangly, the new apostolic prefect of Kampong Cham, at a felicitation during the installation ceremony led by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler (MEP), the apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, on Sept. 11. (Photo supplied)

Thanks to foreign missionaries, Cambodia had a thriving church before the country was captured by the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime, which led to the deaths of some two million people from 1975 to 1979 and near decimation of the Catholic Church due to brutal persecution.

The church was reborn after the fall of Khmer Rouge. Cambodia has about 20,000 Catholics in the apostolic vicariate of Phnom Penh, and the apostolic prefectures of Battambang and Kampong Cham.

Catholics in Vietnam’s central provinces have reached out with emergency aid to thousands of people, who are badly affected by flooding due to Typhoon Noru.

Mission In Asia: Contribute to help UCA News

The storm triggered heavy rainfall, causing landslides and flooding that killed at least eight people including a four-month-old baby, damaged tens of thousands of houses, and destroyed vast swathes of cropland. Thousands of people were still isolated by floods as of last Sunday.

A flood victim family in seen after the devastating Typhoon Noru. (Photo supplied)

The authorities evacuated about 327,900 people in various provinces before the typhoon made landfall on Sept. 28. Churches in central provinces provided shelters to affected people and offered them clothes, blankets, and instant noodles.

Catholic charity Caritas deployed workers and volunteers to carry emergency aid materials to victims by using boats. The volunteers also used boats to move the elderly, women, and children from dangerous places to churches for safety. Many are still waiting to return to their homes that are still flooded days after the storm.

The Vatican’s representative in Timor-Leste has urged Catholics to respect the sanctions that have been imposed on Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo for alleged sexual abuses.

In an interview broadcast on state television RTTL on Tuesday, Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, charge d’affaires of Apostolic Nunciature in Dili, said the bishop has committed “serious crimes” and his case is no longer an accusation, but had been decided. He asked Catholics to maintain loyalty to the Church.

Monsignor Marco Sprizzi in this 2019 file photo. (Photo: Timor-Leste Jesuits)

Sprizzi’s statement came amid heated debate in the country after the Dutch newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer published an investigative report that said the 74-year-old Salesian bishop has sexually abused boys and bought their silence for more than 20 years. Shortly after the report was published, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said the Vatican had earlier imposed sanctions on Bishop Belo in 2019 when it received reports about the "bishops' behavior."

Catholic bishops in Timor-Leste didn’t comment on the issue and some politicians have accused international media of a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the state and the church. 

Authorities in Indonesia launched a probe against elite police officers Tuesday following a deadly stadium stampede that killed 125 children including dozens of children in one of the worst disasters in sports history.

At least 323 people were injured in the stampede. The tragedy last Saturday night came after police fired teargas on angry fans invading the pitch in the city of Malang. Many of the victims were trampled or choked to death.

People pay their respects to victims of the stampede at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java on Oct. 4. (Photo: AFP)

Violence erupted after Arema FC supporters at the Kanjuruhan stadium stormed the pitch after their team lost 3-2 to the visiting team and bitter rivals, Persebaya Surabaya. Police described the unrest as riots and claimed they tried to force fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said a local police chief was replaced, nine officers were suspended, and 19 others were put under investigation over the disaster.

Pro-democracy rallies in various parts of the world denounced the violation of human rights by China’s communist regime in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and the Xinjiang region on the 73rd founding anniversary of China last Saturday.

In Washington DC, Alex Chow, the former secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, addressed a protest gathering, criticized the Chinese Communist Party for its persecution of ethnic minorities, and urged people to reclaim their freedom. Alex Chow was imprisoned in August 2016 for his involvement in the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. He was released after winning an appeal in 2018.

Alex Chow speaks during a rally in Washington DC on Oct. 2. (Photo: Alex Chow via Twitter)

In Taiwan, democracy activist, Henry Tong, led a rally in Taipei holding a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy with a photo of China’s leader Xi Jinping’s face taped onto it. Pooh, a fictional cartoon character, is censored in mainland China since activists used the cartoon as a meme to mock President Xi Jinping.

Similar protests were also held in the cities including Brisbane, Paris, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Explore UCA News

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia