Ateneo president hits killings in Philippines

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Ateneo president hits killings in Philippines
'If real change is to happen, it can only come when we hold before us the value and sanctity of every person’s life,' the Ateneo president says

MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo de Manila University president Father Jose Ramon Villarin on Friday, July 29, condemned the recent spate of killings in the Philippines.

Villarin also referred to the bloody war against illegal drugs waged by the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who ran on a platform of change.

The Ateneo president said “real change” will happen only when Filipinos “respect the sanctity of every person’s life.”

Villarin issued this statement after the murder of Emmanuel Jose “Em-J” Pavia, an Ateneo teacher and alumnus. Pavia is also the son of two Ateneo teachers.

Unidentified killers shot Pavia to death “on his way home to Barangka, Marikina,” he said.

“Though official investigation continues, under no circumstances can the killing of such a young and dedicated teacher be spared condemnation in the strongest terms,” Villarin said in his statement “on the passing of Ateneo alumnus and teacher Emmanuel Jose ‘Em-J’ Magno Pavia.” (READ: Remembering the decency of Emmanuel Jose Pavia)

The Ateneo president then turned to the “primal feelings of frustration, anger, and fear unleashed by the violence that continues to stalk our people,” especially the poor. 

“We recognize the willful efforts of government, the private sector, and civil society to rid our communities of this drug menace and to institute measures that protect persons and property from such violence,” he said.

“However, Christian faith tells us that Jesus came so that all may have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10,10). Because of the fundamental Gospel value and sanctity of each person’s life, the death of anyone regardless of virtue cannot but diminish us, and any society or culture that encourages and multiplies death cheapens life for everyone,” he added.

‘Real change’

Villarin also said: “We join our voice with other sympathetic voices in civil society. We find resonance with the sentiments of our friends from the La Sallian community on this pressing concern.” (READ: La Salle president slams killings under Duterte admin)

Leaders of Catholic nuns, the president of De La Salle Philippines, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, among others, have voiced their concern over the killings since Duterte won the presidency. (READ: Manila bishop on killings: Crime can’t stop crime) 

Given the scope of the problem, Villarin on Friday urged members of the Ateneo community to:

  • “Promote reverence for life, respect for human rights, and restorative justice”
  • “Espouse best practices in crime prevention and control”
  • “Watch over the enforcement of equality before the law, due process, and mandated judicial processes in instances of criminal arrest”
  • “Lobby against the potential reinstatement of capital punishment and the lowering of the age of criminal liability”
  • “Develop and protect transparent modes of truth telling in mass and social media as well as in pronouncements of government and civil society”
  • “Address the root causes of violence, including all forms of addiction and bigotry, and help develop effective campaigns and programs against these”

Villarin said: “At the advent of a new administration, the hope of authentic social change and personal transformation is raised before us once more. These cannot be truly achieved with fear as primary motivation or retribution as auxiliary deterrent.”

“If real change is to happen, it can only come when we hold before us the value and sanctity of every person’s life,” the Ateneo president said. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email