This account was excerpted from several reports filed by Sojourners correspondents Earl and Pat Hostetter-Martin, who work in the Philippines on a service assignment with Mennonite Central Committee.
On April 13, 1981, the Monday before Easter, five unidentified men, two bearing revolvers and three others masked in handkerchiefs, entered the rectory of Father Godofredo Alingal in the southern Philippines town of Kibawe.
A minute later, Father Alingal was shot in the heart and killed. The 58-year-old priest had served that parish for 13 years.
Local people said Father Alingal's persistent defense of the rights of poor farmers in his parish had earned him the dislike of political and military officials in the area. The region has been wracked with conflict between church and martial authorities. In the past 12 years, a parish school building was burned, an American Jesuit missionary was jailed for organizing farmers to defend their rights, and the Catholic radio station which aired accounts of official abuses was raided and closed by the police.
Neither the motive nor the identity of Father Alingal's murderers has been fully established, but his parishioners have cited various threats which had been directed to their priest before his death. For fear of his life, Father Alingal was known to sleep under his bed at times or to change rooms at night.
Father Alingal received his Jesuit training in the United States, and in the mid-1970s he spent a sabbatical in California working with the United Farm Workers movement.
On April 20, about 4,000 local farmers and their families attended Father Alingal's funeral, despite lingering fears of more repression. Some of them even organized a procession to the funeral with banners, including one that read, "Is death the answer for speaking for justice?"