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Negros bishops order tolling of bells ‘until killings stop’

By Visayas Today

All four CatholIc bishops of Negros island have ordered “church bells in all parishes, chaplaincies, mission stations, and religious houses every evening at 8 o’clock” starting Sunday, July 28, to protest a wave of violence in Negros Oriental province that has left at least 21 persons dead in little over a week.

The ringing of bells was originally ordered by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, in whose diocese many of the killings have happened.

But he was joined on Saturday, July 27, through a collegial pastoral statement by Bishops Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Patricio Buzon of Bacolod and Louie Gabines of Kabankalan, who said the tolling of the bells, combined with an “Oratio Imperata,” a prayer for a special intention, in this case to end the killings, is intended “to remind us of the value of life.”

The prayer seeks to “embolden our government officials to speak out against the killings,” to “challenge our police and military personnel to fully embrace their mandate to serve and protect the people,” and to “empower our communities to stand for the sanctity and primacy of life.”

The bells are to be rung “until the killings stop.”

Aside from the recent killings, the prelates also cited the earlier deaths of nine people massacred at a farmers’ protest camp in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last October and of 20 men killed during two massive police operations on December 27 last year and March 30.

“And this is just to cite a few,” they added.

Human rights groups have counted at least 85 extrajudicial killings on Negros since President Rodrigo Duterte.began his term in mid-2016.

“The blood of those killed cries to be heard. It calls out to our basic humanity to be one with those who have been afflicted by this violence,” they said.

“How many more killings will it take for us to be able to hear these cries, and be moved to say, we are our ‘brother’s keeper’?” they added.

FOLLOWING ARE THE FULL TEXTS OF THE COLLEGIAL STATEMENT AND THE ORATIO IMPERATA

COLLEGIAL PASTORAL STATEMENT OF THE NEGROS BISHOPS TO END THE KILLINGS 27 July 2019

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Gen 4:10)

With the recent spate of killings in Negros, so much blood has already been spilled in the island. The blood of those killed cries to be heard. It calls out to our basic humanity to be one with those who have been afflicted by this violence.

The figures are staggering. Nine (9) killed on 20 October 2018; six (6) on 27 December 2018 and 14 on 30 March 2019. Then, in a period of just over a week – starting July 18 up until today, 21 were killed.

And this is just to cite a few.

Nevertheless, these numbers fill us with deep sadness. This unfolding cycle of violence and vendetta is a matter of grave concern for us.

How many more killings will it take for us to be able to hear these cries, and be moved to say, we are our ‘brother’s keeper’?

As your pastors, we unequivocally denounce this total disregard for the primacy and sanctity of human life.

Therefore, to remind us of the value of life, we instruct the Dioceses of Bacolod, Dumaguete, Kabankalan, and San Carlos to toll the church bells in all parishes, chaplaincies, mission stations, and religious houses every evening at 8 o’clock.

In the stillness of night, the tolling of the bells signifies our communion as Church. We are to remember those who have gone before us – including those whose lives have been snuffed by these killings – they, who are our brothers and sisters.

To deliver us from this violence, we pray the Oratio Imperata to End the Killings in Negros Island. We ask God to disturb those who are responsible for this evil and have blood in their hands that they may have a change of heart and be renewed.

Let us say this Oratio after the post-communion prayer in all our masses.

The tolling of the church bells and the praying of the Oratio will start this Sunday, 28 July 2019 and until the killings stop.

MOST REV. GERARDO A. ALMINAZA, D.D., Bishop of San Carlos

MOST REV. JULITO B. CORTES, D.D., Bishop of Dumaguete .

MOST REV. PATRICIO A. BUZON, SDB, D.D., Bishop of Bacolod

MOST REV. LOUIE P. GALBINES, D.D, Bishop of Kabankalan

ORATIO IMPERATA TO END THE KILLINGS IN NEGROS ISLAND

O God, our Father, who hears the cries of Your children, look upon us in Your mercy.

We pray that we be delivered from the evil of the killings that stalks our island. It is a violence that has deprived our people of peace; a violence that has orphaned many families; and a violence that has traumatized and instilled paralyzing fear in our communities.

Stretch out your loving hands, O Father, and move us so that we may truly be our ‘ brother’s keeper’.

Embolden our government officials to speak out against the killings. Challenge our police and military personnel to fully embrace their mandate to serve and protect the people. Empower our communities to stand for the sanctity and primacy of life.

Disturb those responsible for this evil and have blood in their hands, especially the ones who are impelled by their ideological agenda. May they have a change of heart and be renewed.

Be with us, O Lord, so that, in these dark times, we may have the courage to be instruments of Your peace.

This we ask through Jesus Your Son, the Prince of Peace, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of life, pray for us. St. Catherine of Alexandria, Patron Saint of the Diocese of Dumaguete, pray for us. St. Charles Borromeo, Patron Saint of the Diocese of San Carlos, pray for us. St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of the Diocese of Kabankalan, pray for us. St. Sebastian, Patron Saint of the Diocese of Bacolod, pray for us.

NEGROS ISLAND 27 July 2019

Bishop asks ringing of church bells vs killing of civilians in Negros

The Roman Catholic Bishop of San Carlos in Negros Oriental Gerardo Alminaza requested the ringing of church bells every eight o’clock in the evening starting Sunday to protest the non-stop killing of civilians in the entire Negros Island.

“In anger and in a call for justice, in a spirit of communion and in a collective prayer, we exhort our parishes, mission stations and religious houses to ring our church bells every 8PM stating this July 28, 2019 (Sunday) until the killings stop,” Alminaza said in his pastoral appeal issued Thursday.

“Let the toiling of bells remind us that the senseless killings are inhuman. Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths,” the prelate added.

Alminaza’s pastoral appeal is entitled “Exhortation to Government to Act on Ending the Killings, issued on the Roman Catholic saint St. James the Great on July 25, a day marked with a fresh wave of bloodletting throughout the province.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza’s second pastoral appeal this week. (Courtesy of Visayas Today)

Hours after the bishop issued the appeal, a father and child were shot dead in Sta. Catalina town, the sixth and seventh fatalities in a particularly bloody day in Negros Oriental, local news outfit Visayas Today reported.

Sta. Catalina police said Barangay San Jose council member Ramonito Nuque reported the killing of Marlon Ocampo and his unidentified child at Sitio Tara at around eight o’clock. Ocampo’s unnamed wife was also wounded, the report said.

The day started with the murder of school principal Arthur Bayawa and his school supervisor sister Aldane by gunmen who barged into their home in Barangay Hibaiyo in Guihulngan City at one o’clock in the morning.

Less than an hour later, Barangay Buenavista chairperson Romeo Alipan, was also shot dead inside his home in the same city.

Later in the day, gunmen also killed Raklin Astorias in Siaton town and Reden Eleuterio in Ayungon town, Visayas Today reported.

Bishop Alminaza said that the “barbaric deaths” of the victims, all happening in one day, are “manifestations of a total absence of peace and order.”

He challenged local government officials of the province to break out of their silence on the killings.

“Government leaders of the City of Guihulngan and of Negros province, please speak up! Let not your silence add to th growing number of killings. Let not yout silence embolden more the criminals. Be bold and join us in the cry to end the senseless killings!” Alminaza said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (Courtesy of Visayas Today)

The prelate also called on the police and military to protect the people, promote peace and “not act to instil fear.”

“Maintain peace, do not create violence Act within the law, not beyond it,” the bishop said.

Thursday’s pastoral appeal is Alminaza’s second this week.

Last Wednesday, Alminaza issued his first pastoral letter appealing for an end to violence following the killing of lawyer Anthony Trinidad in Guihulngan City.

He also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels as well as a meeting of clergy and lay leaders to discuss how they could help stem the bloodshed.

Activist groups and human rights defenders blamed Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 of November 2018 ordering additional troops to for the increasing number of attacks against civilians. 

“Negros is now fast turning into a killing field and this should be stopped immediately,” Bayan Muna Rep. and human rights lawyer Carlos Zarate said Thursday.

“While we strongly demand justice for these innocent victims, we likewise strongly condemn the inutility of authorities in putting a stop to this utter madness,” Zarate, a human rights lawyer, added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

State forces disrupt psycho-social activity for Canlaon church workers

By Visayas Today

SAN CARLOS CITY – State forces disrupted a psycho-social activity organized for church workers in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental in the wake of the March 30 killing of eight persons there by police during what was initially dubbed an “anti-crime operation” that authorities later admitted targeted alleged communist rebels.

The eight were among 14 persons in all – including two barangay captains in Manjuyod town – who died during “Oplan Sauron 2.0,” which police said was the continuation of the original Oplan Sauron of December 27, that saw six persons slain, mostly in Guihulngan City, also in Negros Oriental.

Police claimed the fatalities were all communist rebels who supposedly fought back when officers served search warrants on them. But the account of the families of the dead, many of whom did not know and lived far from each other, indicated they were executed in cold blood.

Among those killed in Canlaon were the chairman of a local farmers’ organization that authorities have openly tagged as a “legal front” of communist rebels, a law minister of the parish and two volunteer church workers.

Fr. Edwin Laude. (Visayas Today)

Fr. Edwin Laude, pastoral director of the San Carlos diocese, said the activity was held at Canlaon’s St. Joseph parish church on Holy Wednesday to address the possible trauma of 12 church workers who had responded and reached out to the families of the slain.

While the activity was going on, he said, state security forces “in full combat gear” arrived at the church, saying they were there to “observe” what was going on but later “asking for the names of the participants and wanting to take their photos.”

The security personnel then said that “the next time any similar activity was held, we would need to ask the permission of the provincial government because psycho-social activities were part of medical missions, which are among the activities that need the permission of (Negros Oriental) Governor (Roel) Degamo to be held.”

Laude said they saw the disruption of the psycho-social activity by the security forces as a “threat,” stressing that “we are not hiding anything.”

Nevertheless, he added, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza “has already asked the governor’s permission to assist the families” of those killed in Canlaon.

Laude also said that the communities where the March 30 victims lived and died still “live in fear” because of the continued presence of military and police personnel in combat gear, raising concerns the violence might be repeated.

He added that security forces, mainly in civilian clothes, also continue to be monitored around the Canlaon parish church.

“It is like martial law, only worse, because this is undeclared, subliminal, scarier,” Laude said, as he called the state security forces “praning” (paranoid).

At the same time, he said the church and the families of the victims are skeptical that police pledges of an “independent investigation” of the killings would amount to anything.

“People don’t see this” materializing, adding that the church’s request to “include the accounts of the victims’ families and of other witnesses” has so far been disregarded.

The only investigation whose findings the families are inclined to honor, said the priest, is that of the Commission on Human Rights.

Ang Simbahan, ang Diyos at si Digong

Nag-rali at nagdasal ang daan-daang taong simbahan sa Liwasang Rajah Sulayman noong hapon ng Enero 25 sa Maynila sa aktibidad na tinawag nilang “One Faith, One Nation, One Voice Prayer Rally” na may panawagang “katotohan, hustisya, kalayaan at kapayapaan.” Dumalo ang mga Obispo, pari, madre’t layko, gayundin ang mga mag-aaral ng mga eskwelahang pinapatakbo ng mga Simbahan, mapa-Katoliko o Protestante.

Matapos ang walang patid na atake ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa mga relihiyon at maging kanilang batayang paniniwala sa tatlong katauhan ng Diyos, hudyat na ba ang pagtitipong iyon sa harapang komprontasyon sa pagitan ni Duterte at mga Simbaha’t kanilang mananampalataya?

Siyempre, naririyan na naman ang makitid na interpretasyon na “separation of Church and the State” na naggigiit na sana’y huwag nang makialam ang Simbahan sa politika. Makitid at mali dahil ang prinsipiyong ito patungkol lamang sa tuwirang pagbabawal sa mga Simbahan na lumahok sa aktuwal na pagpapatakbo ng pamahalaan. Hindi nito pinagbabawalan ang mga Simbahan na mag-komento sa politika at kalagayan ng lipunan. Ayon mismo sa turo ng mga mayor na relihiyon dito sa Pilipinas, tungkulin nilang magsalita sa mga isyung panlipunan bilang bahagi ng kanilang misyon na ituwid sa aspetong moralidad ang mga temporal na usapin ng mamamayan. Kasali rito ang mga usaping politikal.

Ang Simbahang Katolika, ang dominanteng relihiyon sa bansa, ay nakapag-labas na ng higit-kumulang na dalawandaang pahimakas sa mga usaping panlipunan, mula sa usapin ng kahirapan, korupsyon sa pamahalaan, serbisyong panlipunan, at marami pang iba. Gawain na nila ito bago pa naging pangulo si Duterte noong 2016.

Ngunit kakaibang nilalang ang kanilang katunggali ngayon: isang taong walang tigil at walang habas na inaatake ang institusyon ng Simbahan sa bawat pagkakataon. Talaga namang sa maraming pagkakataon ay “ipokrito” ang maraming taong-simbahan tulad ng madalas na sabihin ni Duterte. Ngunit kailanma’y hindi itinanggi ng mga taong-Simbahan na sila ma’y makasalanan.

May pinaghuhugutan si Duterte. Aniya’y minolestiya siya ng kanilang dating prinsipal sa Ateneo de Davao High School na si Fr Mark Falvey, SJ. “So when I graduated, I was no longer a Catholic. I was no longer a Catholic at that age. I was not even in politics then.”

Sa kabilang banda, tama ba ang pang-uupat ni Duterte sa Simbahan sa kaniyang kakaibang paraan? Sa panahong siya ang pangulo ng bayang mayorya ay Katoliko, katanggap-tanggap ba na may lider na tandisang lapastangan sa Diyos na pinaniniwalaan?

Kandidato pa lamang sa pagka-pangulo’y nagpatikim na si Duterte ng kawalang-tulad na kagaspangan sa pagmumura kay Papa Francisco. Disyembre 9, 2015 nang sinabi niyang, “From the hotel to the airport, alam mo inabot kami…limang oras. Sabi ko bakit? Sabi pinasarado daw? “Gusto kong tawagan, ‘Pope p********!”

Sinabi niya ito sa panahong nagkukunwari pa siyang kasapi ng Simbahang Katolika (dahil nga panahon ng kampanya). Matapos siyang maihalal, tulad ng ibang sektor, binantayan ng mga Simbahan kung anong klase presidente si Duterte. Naging “killing fields” na ang bansa pagkalipas ng ilang buwan dahil sa giyera sa droga ni Duterte. At doon nagsalita ang Simbahan, kasama ng marami pang grupo. Imbes na makinig, nagsimula na si Duterte sa kanyang mga atake sa mga alagad ng Simbahan.

Enero 2017 nang puntiryahin ng bunganga ni Duterte ang retiradong obpispong si Teodoro Bacani Jr na inakusahan niyang may dalawang asawa. “P***** i**** Bacani, dalawa pala asawa, pareho ko. Tapos, ‘pag magsalita ang unggoy na ‘to!” ani Duterte. Hinamon naman ni Bacani si Duterte na patunayan ang sinabi at babayaran niya raw ito ng milyon-milyong piso kung mayroon siyang pruweba. Walang ebidensiyang nailabas ang Presidente, kahit pa kalauna’y inulit ang kanyang paratang na may mga obispong pinapatira sa mga pabahay ng gubyerno ang kanilang mga kinakasama.

Pebrero 2017, sa isang talumpati tungkol sa programang pabahay ng kanyang pamahalaan, sinimulan na niyang gawing biro ang Simbahan at ang mga Sakramento. “‘Sus, ang baho ng bunganga nitong P******** na paring ito. Sintensiyahan ka na ng 20 Our Fathers, bugahan ka pa ng mabahong bunganga!” aniya. “Huwag sa pari, ‘yung tubig diyan, kinuha lang sa poso. Maniwala ka. Totoo. Saan ba nila kinuha iyan, ‘yung holy water?” dagdag niya.

Patikim pa lang pala ni Duterte ang kanyang mga atake noong 2015 at 2017. Ibang lebel ang kanyang pagkamuhi sa Simbahan nitong nakaraang taon kasabay ng kanilang walang tigil na pagkondena sa pagpatay sa libo-libong sibilyan.

Isang malumanay na madre ang kanyang buwena-mano sa 2018—si Sr Patricia Anne Fox, NDS, isang beteranang misyonaryang Australyana. Ani Duterte, walang karapatan ang madre na kastiguhin ang kanyang pamahalaan. Matabil daw ang dila ng madre, katangiang kailanma’y hindi masasabi ng sinumang nakadaupang-palad na ng misyonarya. “You come here and insult us, you trample with our sovereignty. That will never happen,” dagdag pa ni Duterte. Kalaunan, na-deport ang madre.

Noon namang napatay si Fr Mark Ventura ng Cagayan noong Mayo 2018, imbes na kondenahin ang pamamaslang ay binigyang-katuwiran pa ni Duterte ang krimen. “Paanong hindi ka mapapatay? May asawang bise-mayor, may asawang pulis, may asawang sundalo, may asawang malaking negosyante. Eh, ‘di patay ka tuloy,” ani Duterte.

Noon namang Agosto 2018, pinagbantaan niyang tatadyakan ang sinumang Obispo. “Is there any bishop here? I want to kick your ass,” ani Duterte sa isang talumpati sa Malakanyang.

Nobyembre ng parehong taon, inakusahan naman niya si Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David ng pagnanakaw. “Ikaw, David, tumahimik ka ha. Sige ka lang hingi ng kontribusyon diyan sa mga… Saan ang pera ng mga tao? Sige lang hingi, may second collection pa,” ani Duterte. “Alam mo, totoo lang, sabihin ko sa inyo, iyong mga offering, iyong mga pinya, mga abokado, saging, saan napupunta iyan? Gusto ninyong malaman? Gusto ninyo ng video? Ibigay ko sa inyo. Doon sa pamilya niya,” dagdag ng pangulo. Walang bidyong nailabas ang pangulo.

Hindi lamang paratang ng korupsyon ang ibinato ni Duterte sa Obispo. David! Nagdududa nga ako bakit ka sige ikot diyan ng gabi. Duda tuloy ako, p********, nasa droga ka,” ani Duterte.

Tumawid na sa kasalukuyang taon ay hindi pa rin tapos si Duterte sa atake sa Simbahan. Ngayong buwan, inutusan niya ang mga tambay na patayin ang mga obispo. “Hoy, kayong mga tambay diyan, ‘pag dumaan ‘yang obispo ninyo, holdapin ‘yan. Maraming pera ‘yan, p***** i** niya.  Patayin mo,” ani Duterte sa Masbate.

Nitong buwan lamang, tatlong pari at isa pang Obispo ang nagsabing nakakatanggap ng banta sa buhay dahil sa kanilang kritisismo sa walang tigil na pagpatay sa mga pinaghihinalaang lulong sa droga. Inamin nina Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ; Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD; at Fr. Robert Reyes, OFM, gayundin si Lingayan Archbishop Socrates Villegas na natatakot sila sa kanilang buhay dahil sa mga banta sa kanila. Ang sagot ni Duterte: Wala siyang pakialam kung mamatay man daw ang mga pari. Maluwag pa ang mga sementeryo.

Ngunit ang lahat ng ito ay hindi maihahambing sa pang-aalipusta ni Duterte sa buod ng Kristiyanismo at sa Diyos mismo. Hunyo 2018 nang simulan niyang atakihin mismo ang Diyos ng mga Kristiyano.”Kinain ni Adam (ang mansanas), then malice was born.Who is this stupid God? Istupido talaga itong p******** kung ganoon,” ani Duterte sa isang talumpati sa Davao City.

Marami ang natigagal sa kalapastangan ni Duterte. Maging ang mga hindi relihiyoso ay nabastusan sa kanyang sinabi. Dagdag pa rito, sinabi niyang hindi siya hihingi ng paumanhin. “No, I will not do that definitely. Not in the million years,” ni Duterte sa mga mamahayag sa Panglao, Bohol.

Tahasan na ring sinabi ni Duterte na walang Diyos. Sinabi niyang kung mayroon mang makakapagpakita ng kanyang selfie kasama ang Diyos at kagyat siyang bibitiw sa pagka-pangulo. Maging ang paniniwala ng mga Kristiyano sa tatlong katauhan ng Diyos ay kanya na ring nilapastangan “Magdasal ka na sa isang Diyos, magdasal ka pa dito sa santong yawa. Isa lang ang Diyos. There’s only one God, period. You cannot divide God into three. That’s silly,” ani niya.

Bago pa niya ito sinabi, idineklara niya ring walang kahanga-hanga sa pagpapa-pako ni Kristo sa krus. “‘Yong Diyos mo, pinako sa krus. T******. Nakakawala ng bilib. Ako ang Diyos, tapos ipako mo ako? P********!” ani Duterte.

Matatandaang nangako si Duterte kay Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles na magmumulta ng isang libong piso sa bawat niyang pagmumura. May nagbibilang kaya? Magkano na kaya ang buong multa? Pareho lang kaya ang halaga ng multa kung ang minura ay ang Diyos na?

= = = = = = =

May nagbanggit sa akin kamakailan na kapaki-pakinabang sa kanila ang mga bidyo ng Kodao dahil mula sa mga ito nila nasusubaybayan ang mga kaganapang hindi nila karaniwang napapanood saanpaman. “Ngunit medyo nahihirapan kaming ibahagi sa mga magsasaka at katutubo ang laman ng inyong mga balita, kasi Ingles,” ani aking kausap. “Sana mayroon kayong sulatin sa Filipino para madaling ibahagi sa mga diskusyon dito sa baryo,” dagdag niya.

Madali akong kausap, lalo na kung medyo may kasamang puri at halong boladas ang mungkahi.

Ito ang simula at sana’y maipagpatuloy. Sa ngayo’y gamitin ko muna ang titulo ng aking sinaunang blog. (Ito naman ang orihinal na nauna sa pitak ng isang singer at isang palabas sa telebisyon na may parehong pamagat.)

Pag-uusapan rito ang mga isyu sa ating buhay at lipunan sa paraang maigsi at madaling maintindihan. Hindi naman ako “scholarly” para kayaning mag-tunog matalino’t matalinghaga sa lahat ng pagkakataon. Bukod pa, nakakapagod din minsan ang ingles ng ingles.

Walang regular na labas ang Ka-Blog. Kung kailan may isyung nakikita kong dapat komentaryuhan ay saka ako magsusulat.

Mag-huntahan tayo.

4 missing teachers in Philippine Army custody

A Church group said its four volunteer teachers missing since November 12 were abducted and are being detained by government soldiers in Lanao del Sur.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) today said Philippine Army troopers illegally arrested and are detaining literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers Tema Namatidong (28), Julius Torregosa (30), Ariel Barluado (22) and Giovanni Solomon (30).

Citing reports from its Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (NMR) office, RMP said that the four teachers were conducting classes on agriculture and community beautification when soldiers belonging to the 51st and 81st Infantry Battallions on board four military trucks arrived at Sitio Babalayan, Barangay Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur, morning of November 12.

The soldiers were said to be looking for Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi who are community leaders in the area.

From then on, the volunteers went missing and cannot be contacted, RMP said.

On November 27, 2018, RMP-NMR and the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Iligan City were able to contact Corporal Rico Ordaneza of the 103rd Infantry Brigade who confirmed that the four are in his unit’s custody.

“We demand the immediate release of our volunteer teachers. They have been in the custody of the 103rd Brigade for 15 days– more than the prescribed number of days allowed by law that police/military personnel can detain suspected persons or persons of interests without cases filed before them,” Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP national coordinator said.

A mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), the RMP said its literacy-numeracy program in Mindanao is an effort to reach communities too far away from regular schools, and is implemented with the help of the community members.

“These volunteer teachers are helping the children of their own community. Not everyone can have the perseverance and dedication that they have. They should be treated with respect and admiration and not be harassed and persecuted, ” Belardo said.

The RMP said the incident is among the latest attacks against tribal schools, students and teachers that have intensified especially with the Mindanao-wide Martial Law still in place.

On November 17, Esteban Empong Sr., 49,  a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house in Kitaotao, Bukidnon while five students who are all minors were allegedly tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA while they were on their way home in Magpet, North Cotabato on November 18, the group cited.

The group also stated that that under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, one to two Lumad schools are being attacked every day with threats and harassments, military encampment, illegal arrest and detention, torture, destruction of schools, forcible closures and extrajudicial killings of teachers, parents and even students and among others.

“We demand an end to these attacks and we call on our friends from the religious community to denounce this latest arrest and echo the call for the release of our teachers. “ Belardo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A matter of time

By Prof. Luis V. Teodoro

The killing of three priests over the last six months — of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June — has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.

Priests have been murdered in this country and in the rest of the world for years. Among dozens of others in Latin America, while saying mass in 1980, El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated by a death squad for his opposition to dictatorship, injustice and torture. In the Philippines, 32 clergymen and church workers, 16 of whom were Catholic priests, have been killed since the Marcos regime (1965-1986).

The online news site MindaNews lists 13 priests killed from 1971, when Marcos was in his second term, to 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

Fr. Nelson Javellana was ambushed in Maguindanao in 1971, Fr. Godofredo Alingal killed in Bukidnon in 1981, and Fr. Tullio Favali in North Cotabato in 1985.

Anti-illegal logging activist Fr. Mario Estorba was killed in Agusan del Sur in 1988, followed by Fr. Dionisio Malalay who was slain in Zamboanga del Sur in1989, and Fr. Nerylito Satur in 1991. All three killings happened during the Corazon Aquino post-martial law administration.

Bishop Benjamin de Jesus was killed in 1997 during the Fidel Ramos term, and Fr. Rhoel Gallardo of Basilan and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio of Jolo in 2000 during the brief presidency of Joseph Estrada .

Two priests were killed during the nine years that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president : Fr. Rufus Haley in 2001, and Fr. Reynaldo Roda in 2008. One priest, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, was killed in 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

These 13 plus the three killed during the present regime add up to 16 priests murdered in the last 47 years. Only the killers of Fr. Favali in 1985 have been punished: together with his men, the leader of the paramilitary group responsible was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was pardoned after 23 years in prison.

The Duterte regime can very well argue that the killing of priests is not a phenomenon unique to it, and that rather than part of a policy to intimidate the Church, the killings do not reveal any pattern but are likely to have been due to any number of motives .

But all the priests killed did have something in common: their being political and social activists, and their commitment to the defense of the poor and powerless. All were human rights defenders. Some were fighting for indigenous people’s rights, others for the environment, for a just and lasting peace, for equality and social justice, and against militarization and peasant and worker exploitation.

The killings suggest that they were carried out by those groups and forces hostile to those advocacies. The economic, social and political issues and problems the slain priests were addressing are still with us, and continue to demand the engagement of everyone, including the clergy, who sincerely care for this country and its people.

All post-Marcos administrations up to Benigno Aquino III’s at least paid lip service to the need for justice for the slain priests, and none of them ever suggested that the killings were justifiable. The Philippine National Police as of this writing has announced the arrest of a suspect in the killing of Fr. Nilo. But President Rodrigo Duterte’s most recent statements have laid the blame on the fatalities themselves, thereby suggesting that the killings can be blithely explained away, or even justified. And only Mr. Duterte’s subordinates have issued the usual assurances about going after the killers.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Duterte blamed the journalists who have been killed in this country for their own murders because they were all supposedly corrupt. He is similarly blaming the slain today by claiming that despite their vows of celibacy, priests are no different from him in that they too have had affairs with women. He followed this up, prior to the murder of Fr. Nilo, with attacks on the Catholic Church and even on God Himself.

Neither corruption nor immorality justifies anyone’s being killed, whether judicially or extrajudicially. If they did, every other government official would deserve a lethal injection, or a bullet in the head from the usual police and motorcycle-riding assassins. But the current President of the Philippines seems to think that these failings, like the use of illegal drugs, are capital offenses.

His tirades and profanities against Catholic priests and the Church itself, just like his justifying the killing of journalists — like Benigno Aquino III’s own verbal attacks on the press and media during his term — are also likely to encourage more killings. But this is to assume that it would be merely incidental and unintentional, and there is no regime policy to do away with its critics in the clergy and other “troublesome” sectors like the independent press.

Such a policy would after all be in direct contradiction with the government responsibility of protecting its citizens. But the context in which the killing of progressive and activist priests is happening nevertheless invites the conclusion that such a policy does exist.

In apparent fear of being ousted from power–he has even announced that China will protect him if there are ever such attempts–Mr. Duterte has attacked independent journalists on the assumption that the truth-telling responsibility of a free press is likely to help remove him from office. He and his police and military bureaucrats may be entertaining the same thoughts about the activist clergy and even the Catholic Church itself.

He may not be entirely mistaken. The institutional Catholic Church has always been conservative. But there are nevertheless individuals within it who believe in seeking justice though the heavens fall– who defend human rights, who fight for social change, peace and independence, and who, in the process, have themselves become the targets of State repression.

Even prior to the EDSA 1 civilian-military mutiny, progressive clergymen and women were already in the broad resistance against the dictatorship, and helped commit the Catholic Church to the overthrow of the Marcos terror regime. The free press and media were similarly pivotal in that historic enterprise. The crucial roles of the press and the clergy in the political upheaval of 1986 may help explain the Duterte regime’s antipathy for both.

The irony is that Mr. Duterte’s attacks on the Catholic Church and priesthood are fueling the simmering outrage against his regime that he fears can lead to his overthrow, just as his assault on independent journalists and their organizations has convinced responsible practitioners of the need for critical attention to his regime’s acts and policies.

Neither all the clergy and the entire Church, nor all journalists and their organizations, have as yet forged the unity resistance to autocratic rule demands. But thanks to Mr. Duterte’s own doing, among them his enshrinement of killing and police and military impunity as State policy, today as in the months, weeks and days before EDSA 1, it may only be a matter of time before it is achieved together with the workers, farmers, students, academics, urban poor, women, and indigenous and Moro people who believe that an alternative to the reign of assassins is both necessary and possible.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO. / Prof. Teodoro is chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network

Pray for the evil spirit in Malacañan – Bishop

By April Burcer

A Roman Catholic bishop urged members of the Church to let their voices be heard against the killings of priests as well as against all other extra-judicial killings in the country.

“Stand up. Speak out. That’s where we are lacking right now,” Pabillo said during his homily at a special Mass celebrated at the Quiapo Basilica Monday evening.

“The people are asking, ‘Why is the Church silent?’ The public does not expect church people to be armed with guns. They expect us to speak out –bishops, priests, nuns and lay groups,” he added.

Pabillo said with the faithfuls’ voices speaking together, they don’t have to shout loudly but still be heard.

“The whole country will hear that killing is evil, that telling lies is bad, that cursing is unacceptable, that quo warranto is illegal, that we don’t want Cha-Cha, and that we should not give the Philippines to China,” the prelate said.

Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte spoke against the Church’s God and the hypocrisy of its leaders and priests.

“So huwag kang maniwala ‘yang Katoliko. Hindi ako naniniwala ng Katoliko. ‘Yang Adam and Eve na ‘yan. Tingnan mo. Pagka hindi… Kung ‘yan ang Diyos ng Katoliko, torpe ‘yan. Mag hanap ka ng Diyos na tama,” Duterte said. (So don’t believe the Catholics. I don’t believe in the Catholics. That Adam and Eve story, you see…If that’s the God of the Catholics, that is stupid. Better that you find a right One)
Duterte was a baptized Roman Catholic.
In his homily, Pabillo urged the public to pray and fast more because “the evil spirit in Malacañan can only be driven away by prayers of faith.”

The Mass was followed by a candle-lighting ceremony at the historic Plaza Miranda led by various church and human rights groups for the three Roman Catholic priests killed under the Duterte government.

Father Richmond Nilo of Nueva Ecija, retired priest Father Tito Paez and Father Mark Ventura of Cagayan have been killed in the past six months.

“There is a culture of killing that is happening now in our country. They are killing our respect for people, they are killing our respect women, and they are killing our respect for the law. The very people who should be upholding the law are the very ones who are breaking them,” activist nun Sr Mary John Mananzan, OSB said.

The event was also participated in by Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox and faith-based groups such as the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Nicodemus, Workers’ Resistance Against Tyranny and for Human Rights, and Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan.

The event ended with the announcement of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) reversal of the Bureau of Immigration’s order deporting Fox. #

Observers hope talks impasse is temporary

NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands—A nun and a priest who arrived in this city to observe the scheduled fifth round of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expressed disappointment at the cancellation of the talks.

Invited as observers to the formal negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP, Sr. Ma. Luz Mallo, MA, and Fr. Manuel Vicente Catral however said they are hopeful the stalemate is just temporary.

Sr. Luz, executive secretary of the Sisters Association of Mindanao and convenor of Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao, was on was on her way to this city from an international religious gathering in Weimar, Germany when she heard of the GRP’s announcement of its non-participation in the round.

“I still came over because I was hopeful there is a remedy to the impasse. I was praying socio-economic reforms would still be discussed,” Sr. Luz said.

“It does not benefit the Lumad, the Bangsamoro and the poor that finding solutions to the maldistribution of land, destruction of natural resources and other social ills in our country is postponed, even if temporarily,” she added.

Fr. Catral for his part questioned the sincerity of those who cancelled the round.

“How serious are we?  Shouldn’t it be that any attempt for peace be undertaken with utmost sincerity?” the Social Action Commission chairperson of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao said.

Fr. Catral concelebrated a Holy Mass with Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg last May 28 attended by both GRP and NDFP negotiators as well as Royal Norwegian Government officials who are facilitating the talks in this city.

“Be not afraid”

In place of a homily, Archbishop Utleg read the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement on the scheduled formal round encouraging the parties to “take bold steps that alone can bring peace.”

“We trust that our negotiators—on both sides—will be anointed by God’s Spirit so that His sons and daughters in this land that has already been drenched by so much blood may at last walk the ways of peace,” the CBCP said.

The CBCP also said both the GRP and the NDFP should “steadfastly stand for social justice and for the renewal of an order that has left too many to wither away in the peripheries.”

It was the first time a Holy Mass was celebrated as part of a formal round of GRP-NDFP talks.

The celebration lightened an obviously tensed atmosphere as the negotiators struggled to find a way around the impasse.

The GRP however eventually said there is no enabling and conducive environment for the fifth round to proceed with the formal round, scuttling the talks a few hours after the Mass.

Reforms over war

“I am personally disappointed that, in an instant, the apparent high hopes displayed by the negotiators after the Mass changed in an instant,” Fr. Catral for his part said.

The priest said he is saddened he failed to observe how the parties would have negotiated for free land distribution, delivery of basic social services and environment protection.

“All the efforts exerted to prepare for this round are wasted,” he added.

Sr. Luz for her part disagreed with the GRP decision, saying those most affected by social inequalities should have the strongest voice in the negotiations.

“The context of the reason given by the GRP Panel is wrong,” the nun said, adding support for the continuation of the formal negotiations is strong among the marginalized sectors.

“I saw how the MARBAI (Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc.) fought for their land and President Duterte himself supported their struggle.  Why can’t landlessness among the farmers be discussed in the peace negotiations?” she asked.

Both however expressed hope the impasse is temporary.

“I observed that both parties are ready to discuss socio-economic reforms.  Even when the round was officially cancelled, there were still holding meetings to prepare for the resumption of negotiations,” Sr. Luz said.

“I hope the Filipino people show the GRP and the NDFP the depth of their desire for the talks to proceed.  That is the only way the negotiators can take the peace talks more seriously,” Fr. Catral said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

 

 

PHOTO ESSAY: Mindanao nuns shed tears for massacre victims

Nighttime at Surigao del Sur’s Sports Center, site of yet another mass evacuation of thousands of Manobos driven from their homes by brutal anti-insurgency campaigns of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  The province’s Social Hall may be seen in the background (3rd building from the left).

Nighttime at Surigao del Sur’s Sports Center, site of yet another mass evacuation of thousands of Manobos driven from their homes by brutal anti-insurgency campaigns of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The province’s Social Hall may be seen in the background (3rd building from the left).

TANDAG, SURIGAO DEL SUR—For a week, this province’s Social Hall had been a funeral parlor for the victims of the massacre in Sitio Han-Ayan, Barangay Diatogon, Lianga town. Beneath its chandeliers—witnesses to many festive events in the past—laid the three mutilated bodies of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) executive director Emerito Samarca, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) chairperson Dionel Campos and Datu (Chieftain) Juvello Sinzo. Their joint wake was held here for six days and nights after their brazen murder by paramilitary forces last September 1, incidentally the Global Day of Prayer for All Creation as declared by Pope Francis.

Unusual, yet regular, are the banners over coffins of extra-judicial killing victims in Mindanao, mostly lumads who defend their land from mining plunder, demanding justice.

Unusual, yet regular, are the banners over coffins of extra-judicial killing victims in Mindanao, mostly lumads who defend their land from mining plunder, demanding justice.

Their embalmers obviously tried to conceal the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani Forces’ brutal handiwork to accord the victims a dignified appearance. Samarca’s barong collar was pulled up to his chin to hide his slit throat. Campos’ bullet wound on his forehead was skillfully concealed by cosmetics but his grimace remained. All three had absorbent material bulging from under their shirts to hold what bodily fluids may still seep from their wounds.

Usually a venue for festive events, the province’s Social Hall kept the remains of three massacre victims for almost a week.  It would later also host a four-year-old evacuee who would die mere hours after this tribute concluded.

Usually a venue for festive events, the province’s Social Hall kept the remains of three massacre victims for almost a week. It would later also host a four-year-old evacuee who would die mere hours after this tribute concluded.

The night of September 7 was the last time that Samarca was to stay at his beloved Surigao del Sur, as his remains was to be brought back to his home province of Agusan del Norte the next day. As the city around them prepared for its annual fiesta, hundreds gave the three victims a funeral tribute. As it drizzled outside the hall tears were being shed inside it.

An Alcadev student portrays how they found their school director Samarca in one of the institution’s rooms after he had been taken by the paramilitary.

An Alcadev student portrays how they found their school director Samarca in one of the institution’s rooms after he had been taken by the paramilitary.

Church people led the tribute that started with an ecumenical prayer. Tandag’s Roman Catholic choir sang beautifully, immediately misting the eyes of many in the crowd. Bishops, priests and pastors were seated nearer the white coffins and participated in the program as speakers. Roman Catholic priest and Alcadev board member Fortunato Estillore talked about how the tribal schools must continue. Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Mervin Elimanco passionately condemned the massacre. United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Modesto Villasanta talked about how the elementary Trifps (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur) and the secondary Alcadev schools upheld the Manobo’s dignity through literacy and defense of their ancestral domain.

The children Mapasu chairperson Dionel Campos orphaned.

The children Mapasu chairperson Dionel Campos orphaned.

The nuns, on the other hand, seated themselves behind the grieving families and with the crowd. They wore different-colored and styled wimples, as they belong to different congregations. In Mindanao they also firmly belong to the people, especially the poor. They were either members of the Sisters’ Association of Mindanao (Samin), the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, or both.

The nuns from different congregations expressing their solidarity to the Lumad.

The nuns from different congregations expressing their solidarity to the Lumad.

They approached grieving families and softly consoled them, even as they themselves were crying. They close their eyes in horror as they listen to witnesses of how Campos, brave lumad organization leader, was shot on his forehead, his brain splattered on land he fiercely defended. They bow their heads in prayer as they listen to Sinzo’s daughter narrate how his chieftain-father had been steadfast against corporate mining despite repeated harassments from both military and paramilitary forces.

A nun comforts the family of one of the victims.

A nun comforts the family of one of the victims.

An elderly nun wipes away her tears as she watches a dramatisation of Samarca's brutal killing.

An elderly nun wipes away her tears as she watches a dramatiZation of Samarca’s brutal killing.

Among the nuns Sr Stella Matutina, OSB appeared to have felt the pain the most. Barely two months before the massacre she attended the International Peoples’ Conference on Mining held in Metro Manila as secretary general of Panalipdan-Mindanao, an island-wide environment group, with Samarca. As Karlgen Samarca narrated how tender and loving his father was to his family and the indigenous peoples and how dedicated he was as Alcadev director she peeled herself away from their group and tried to hide behind a concrete column to weep. Samarca must have been very happy for her when it was announced she would be the recipient of the Wiemar Human Rights Award of Germany in December. He must have offered her support when the Philippine Police harassed her with false serious illegal detention charges earlier this year. They had been close friends and comrades for the environment and indigenous peoples’ rights for decades. “A very good man, very kind and soft-spoken,” Sr. Stella said of her friend.

Sr Estella Matutina, OSB, comrade and friend of the victims.

Sr Stella Matutina, OSB, comrade and friend of the victims.

Sr Stella related how the Manobos of Surigao del Sur were harassed last August 9, International Indigenous Peoples’ Day. She also narrated that the three victims were killed by the Magahat-Bagani Forces and how the thousands were forcibly evacuated on the day that Pope Francis called for a day for prayer for planet Earth. “It was a very nice celebration when the whole world prays. But in the Philippines, we are killing an educator for lumads (indigenous peoples of Mindanao), a lumad leader and a datu (chieftain). What are we telling the world when we are killing educators and defenders of creation?” she asked.

As Karlgen Samarca describes his father’s life and work, Sr Estella weeps for her martyred colleague.

As Karlgen Samarca describes his father’s life and work, Sr Stella weeps for her martyred colleague.

The activist nun called on the faithful to study deeper the root causes of poverty in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. “In the (Church-declared) Year of the Poor this is what happening. We believe in a God of equality and justice. We will not have peace if things like this (the massacre) keep on happening. We must respect indigenous peoples’ rights. We have to be Christians,” Sr Stella said.

Sr Estella being consoled by a Protestant Bishop.

Sr Stella being consoled by a Protestant Bishop.

The tribute ended at half past midnight. As the evacuees stood up to go back to their tents at the nearby evacuation center an elderly nun approached the coffins. She lingered on each, clutching a prayer book. When she turned to leave with the others, her eyes were as wet as the grass blades outside, then already being caressed by the night mist that rolled from the nearby forests. #

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(Text and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)