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.
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.
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)