Negros Bishop pleads for justice for Faustos; NDFP accuses AFP as child killers

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said they mourn the “horrifying” deaths of the Fausto family killed last Wednesday, June 14, in Himamaylan, Negros Occidental allegedly by government soldiers.

In a petition released last Sunday, the prelate in neighboring Negros Oriental said he implores local and national government institutions to ensure justice for the victims and hold accountable those responsible for the massacre.

Brutally killed in their hut were Roly Fausto (55), his wife Emelda (50) and their children Ben (15) and Ravin (12) who had been repeatedly red-tagged and by the military weeks before their deaths.

Quoting a report by local human rights group September 21 Movement, Alminaza joined many organizations in identifying the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion as alleged perpetrators of the “heinous act.”

READ: IFI Bishop, groups denounce massacre in Negros

“Our hearts are heavy as we witness the escalating militarization under the current (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) administration,” Bishop Alminaza said.

The bishop also blamed Executive Order 70 issued by former president Rodrigo Duterte institutionalizing the so-called whole-of-nation approach in the government’s counter-insurgency program and creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the incident.

“The’ whole-of-nation approach’ advocated by the (NTF-ELCAC) has led to the weaponization of ‘red-tagging’, armed harassment, and senseless killings,” Alminaza said.

Alminaza offered a prayer as a plea for justice in his petition.

‘AFP are child killers’

Meanwhile, the Special Office for the Protection of Children (SOPC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as child killers for the deaths of minors Ben and Ravin.

NDFP-SPOC head and NDFP Negotiating Panel member Coni Ledesma, a native of Negros Occidental, said her office vehemently condemns the “brutal massacre” by the said military unit.

“This heinous act is a blatant violation of the rights of the child and the special protections under international humanitarian law,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma said child rights violations have sharply increased under the Marcos Jr. government with reports of kidnappings, threats, forced evacuation, violence and murder.

In Negros Island alone, the NDFP has documented at least 22 cases of state violence involving children between the period of 2020 to 2022, Ledesma said, citing a special report by the Communist Party of the Philippines’ official organ Ang Bayan.

“The killing of the Fausto children and their parents exposes the AFP once more as lawless and mindless child killers. As commander-in-chief of the criminal, corrupt and brutal AFP, Marcos II is directly responsible for its war crimes against the Filipino people,” she said.

Ledesma also criticized the AFP for its penchant to blame the New People’s Army (NPA) for its reported crimes against civilians.

Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Battalion commander B/Gen. Orlando Edralin told reporters in a briefing last Thursday it was the NPA that killed the Faustos.

Edralin claimed that Roly had become a military asset prior to his death.

“Pinning the blame on the NPA is an old and tired tactic the AFP uses to escape accountability for its crimes against the people. Confirmed reports stated that on 22 March, both Emelda and Rolly Fausto were interrogated and harassed by military agents,” Ledesma however said.

“Even prior to the incident, the AFP has red-tagged the Fausto family, slaughtered their livestock, and ransacked their property in attempts to force admission of ties to the NPA,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop renews call for release of elderly prisoner and son

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza appealed for pardon and parole for an elderly prisoner and her son who he describes as simple poor farmers from his diocese.

In a public petition, the prelate said 75-year old Moreta Alegre should be released due to her advanced age and physical ailments, including hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Moreta and her son Selman had been in his heart for quite some time, the prelate said, adding that after 16 years in prison, both mother and son can be offered pardon and parole

He recalled that Moreta’s husband and Selman’s father Jesus who had been arrested with them has died in prison on June 13, 2021 of cardiac arrest. Jesus was 75 years old.

The Alegres are active members of San Carlos Diocese’s basic ecclesial community called Gagmay’ng Kristohanong Katilingban, the prelate said.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

Bishop Alminaza said the Alegres were displacement victims from their 15-hectare farmland by a landlord.

“They were convicted of killing the bodyguard of a local landlord, who subsequently claimed the land that had been tilled by the Alegre family. The Alegre family led a simple life, fishing and selling copra and tuba (native wine) as the produce of their toil,” Alminaza said.

“[T]heir efforts to secure papers that the land was theirs turned futile, once they were accused of murder. Jesus, Moreta, and Salem have maintained that they did not kill the landlord’s bodyguard; the landlord testified against them, but even the wife of the bodyguard did not persist in pursuing their prosecution,” he added.

The Bishop cited Pope Francis’s plea on January 19 that prisoners should never be deprived of hope.

“We risk being imprisoned in a justice that doesn’t allow one to easily get back up again and confuses redemption with punishment,” Alminaza quoted the Pontiff as saying last Wednesday in his regular public address at the Vatican.

Alminaza said he prays that that like others with more means, Moreta and Selman would be expediently granted release in the hope that the country’s justice system works and cares for the poor.

In June 2021, Alminaza has asked President Rodrigo Duterte and justice secretary Menardo Guevarra to grant clemency to both mother and son or for the review of their conviction.

READ: Bishop seeks clemency for mother-son political prisoners

“Moreta should be allowed to spend her remaining days loving her grandchildren and reconnecting with her children. This poor family has been separated for so long, as Jesus, Moreta, and Salem were detained in Manila jails while the rest of the family remained in Negros,” the prelate said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)