Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the Philippine bishops' conference, blesses the remains of Wilerme Dorado Agorde, a Catholic lay worker who was killed on Feb. 19. (Photo courtesy of Caritas-Philippines)
Church leaders in the Philippines have called on the government to look into the killing of a Catholic lay worker in Kidapawan Diocese in Mindanao.
Gunmen shot and killed Wilerme Dorado Agorde, 64, in the town of Roxas, Norther Cotabato province, on Feb. 19, reportedly over a land dispute.
Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said he is alarmed that even church workers become targets of "extrajudicial killings" because of their work in poor communities.
The prelate said several killings have raised fears among people in his diocese.
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the Philippine bishops' conference, said Agorde was killed in front of his grandchildren.
"They killed a man who fought for the right to land," said the priest.
Agorde was project coordinator of the agrarian reform program of Caritas-Philippines in his diocese. He led a group of farmers who are claiming a 5,000-hectare area of land owned by the state-run University of Southern Mindanao.
Father Gariguez said Agorde's death "is interpreted by the community as a way to silence the leaders who are defending their land rights."
The priest said Agorde was the third local peasant leader to be killed in February.