By Visayas Today
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza on Thursday, August 1, called for the rejection of martial law and renewed his call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels.
A Catholic priest said placing Negros under martial law on account of the recent wave of violence that has claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental will only worsen the situation.
Human righta groups also rejected the notion outright, predicting it would only lead to more human rights abuses.
President Rodrigo Duterte has warned he might invoke emergency powers, including martial law, to quell the violence he and security officials blame on communist rebels.
Upping the bounty to P5 million, “dead or laive,” for rebels who killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town on July 18, he also threatened to “replicate the atrocious acts” he attributed to the New People’s Army.
Reacting to Duterte’s threat, Alminaza pointed out that “martial law is neither the answer to the centuries-old agrarian problem nor to the decades of armed rebellion.”
He pointed to the Marcos dictatorship, which began when the country was placed under martilal law in 1972, saying this “did not lead to genuine peace; instead, it worsened the insurgency problem.”
“Even now, the heavens cry for justice as innocent people get killed in crossfires and mere suspects are summarily killed,” the bishop said. “Even now, without any formal declaration of martial law, government commandos and armed partisans are sowing fear and disregarding due process and the rule of law. Even now, human and civil rights are being trampled upon, leaving more and more widows and orphans in our midst.”
At the same time, he told the warring parties that “genuine peace can never be achieved through military adventurism and tit-for-tat conflict” but by addressing the “roots of social injustice.”
Fr. Chris Gonzales, Social Action head of the Bacolod diocese, said talk of martial law by Malacañang “saddens us.”
Should Duterte make good on this threat, Gonzales predicted “more oppression of the marginalized and those working for social justice.”
“We still believe poverty alleviation is the answer to our social woes,” Gonzales said. “Our people have suffered enough. We do not see how martial law can be the solution.”
Responding to the bloodshed. the four bishops of Negros have ordered church bells rung at 8 p.m. everyday “until the killings stop.”
“The church will continue to pray for peace, not the peace born of fear but born of freedom,” Gonzales said.
At the same time, he reminded the military and police, who many quarters suspect of being reaponsible for many of the killings, “your mandate is to protect the citizenry.”
In the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc and a group of 26 lawmakers, including most of Negros’, have separately sought inquiries into the killings.
The lawmakers noted that most of the vcitims – who counted local government officials, educators, a lawyer, among others – had been accused of being rebel supporters.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, warned that “threats by Duterte and his minions to declare martial law in Negros will significantly impact on the human rights situation in the island.”
Citing Mindanao, which has been under martial law since 2017, when fighting broke out in Marawi City, Palabay predicted “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, forced surrender, forcible evacuation and other rights violations that will wantonly be committed by State forces once martial law is declared in Negros.”
“We call on Negrenses and the Filipino people to oppose this spiralling descent to fullblown dictatorship in the country,” she said.
On the other hand, the Defend Negros coalition, demanded “peace and justice” instead of martial law.
“A militarist solution such as the declaration of martial law, and more tyrannical actions, would never be the solution to the alarming situation in Negros,” Defend Negros said.
“Justice and peace are what we seek for in this time of despair and darkness,” the coalition said. “While we mourn over the rising number of brutal deaths in Negros, we also rage against state policies that has sanctioned these attacks — Executive Order No. 70 and Memorandum Order No. 32, approved by President Duterte, also the concurrent Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
Instead of threatening martial law, Defend Negros said government “must address the plight of landless farmers” and “work to give concrete solutions to the growing economic hardship and social injustice endured by Negrenses.” #