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‘One death is too many’

Artwork by Jose Mari Callueng

“One death is too many. In the case of Negros Island, since President Duterte took an oath to “…do justice to every man and consecrate myself (himself) to the service of the nation,” at least 87 lives have been taken. Half of these were killed when Duterte ordered the deployment of more military troops there by virtue of the Memorandum Order No. 32.

“This is the image of Negros Island now. Once an island known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” has become a killing field. It is bloodied. And the killing won’t stop very soon. What with the threats from the President to deploy even more troops there.

“It won’t stop unless we stop the murderer in Malacañang.”—Jose Mari Callueng, human rights defender

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Walang Tigil na Pamamaslang sa Negros

Panayam kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chair Emeritus ng International League of People’s Struggle, ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo hinggil sa extra-judicial killings sa isla ng Negros. Sa kasalukuyan ay mayroon nang 87 ang napatay sa isla simula ng maupo sa Malacanang si Pangulong Duterte.


NUJP-Bacolod chairperson tailed by ‘suspicious rider’

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)—Bacolod Chapter chairperson Marchel Espina reported being tailed by a “suspicious motorcycle rider” while on assignment in Negros Oriental Sunday afternoon, August 4.

While returning from Canlaon City, Espina’s driver told her that they were being followed by a motorcycle rider, “who was of medium build and wore a bonnet concealing his face, a black jacket and pants and with a backpack.”

Espina was pursuing stories about the killings of civilians in Negros Island believed to be the result of the government’s intensified counter-insurgency drive.

Espina reports for Rappler.

Espina said the rider had tailed them for almost 18 kilometers, from Biak Na Bato to Taburda in La Castellana town.

She quoted her driver as saying he blocked an attempt by the rider to overtake their rental car and drove as fast as he could until they eventually lost the tail.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen have been reported as the perpetrators of many killings in the entire island in the past weeks.

At least 21 civilians were killed in Negros Oriental in the past two weeks, many by motorcycle riders. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hindi Malayo ang Negros

By Luchie Maranan

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Sa islang naglalamay
Sa mga pinaslang.

Ang mapulang tilamsik at daloy 
Ay umaabot sa iyong kinaroroonan
Dahil maniwala ka’t hindi,
“Ang sakit ng kalingkingan
Ay dama ng buong katawan.”

Ang dilim ay malawak na inilalatag
Hanggang ang iyong 
Sariling liwanag ay di na mabanaag.
Nasa hangin ang pulbura ng salarin
Pagtutol ay pupulbusin.

Akala mo lang
Naumid na ang iyong paligid,
Ngunit dinig hanggang sa iyong isip
Ang hiyaw ng dumaraming
Tinutugis at inuusig.

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Ngunit ang Negros ay larawan
Ng iyong sariling bayan.

Hulyo 31, 2019

Baby Marjon

“Baby Marjon” by Jose Mari Callueng (Poster paint on paper, 20 July 2019)

“It was only on Saturday when I received photos of a crime scene of what happened in Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental. A picture of dead bodies lying on the ground. One was of a father named Marlon, the other was of a child, a one year old child named ‘Marjon.’ Before the investigators laid them on the ground, the baby’s dead body was found on a makeshift hammock. They were attacked while they peacefully slept.

“At Karapatan, we’ve been documenting rights violations of different forms–forced evacuations, illegal arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, among others. Since I joined this group of brave human rights workers, listing names and respective profiles of those killed under this murderous regime has become part of the daily routine. It never stops.

“Last week was the bloodiest in Negros, killing nine, a reflection of the dire situation of the entire island since President Rodrigo Duterte placed it under Memo. No. 32 which deployed more troops there. Many residents have been the subject of various rights violations since, such as harassment, intimidation, threats, if not murdered for being ‘suspected’ as members of the NPA.

“To write down a name of a defenseless one year old, Marjon is the most painful. He can barely talk, nor can he walk on his own little feet. He was murdered. My heart weeps as I put the image of a bloodied hammock on my drawing book. This is how low this government has become. This is too much.” — Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan

NPA ‘strictly abides by rules of war’ – CPP to HRW

By Visayas Today

Communist rebels offered assurances on Thursday, July 30, that their armed units “conscientiously study and abide by the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I,” which govern the conduct of war.

Earlier in the day, Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that responsibility for the string of killings that have claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental over the past two week “remains unclear.”

He nevertheless urged both the government and rebels to “take all necessary measures to end unlawful attacks, either by their forces or armed elements linked to them.”

State security forces and the New People’s Army have blamed each other for the killings.

The NPA accuses government forces of retaliating on civilians suspected of being rebel supporters following the death of four police intelligence officers in an ambush on July 18. The police accuse the rebels of torturing and then executing the four.

Adams reminded both parties that “killing civilians and captured combatants are war crimes.”

Responding to Adams, the CPP said it considered the attention HRW had given to the Negros killings “important” and agreed with his observation that the violence was “linked to the issues of land rights, poverty and injustice.”

It maintained that the four policemen “died in the course of a legitimate act of war” – an NPA ambush – “and were not tortured as falsely claimed by” President Rodrigo Duterte, and stressed that the rebels “do not have a hand in the successive killings of civilians.”

The CPP also said the deaths of seven persons on July 25, the bloodiest day for Negros Oriental, “fall into the pattern of coordinated operations of the police and military.”

Among those killed on that day were sibling educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa and Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan, who were shot dead in their respective homes in Guihulngan City, and Marlon Ocampo and his year-old son Marjon, who died when gunmen strafed their home in Sta. Catalina town.

“We believe that they are victims of death squads attached to the military and police in Negros island meant to intimidate the people against supporting the armed resistance of the NPA,” the CPP said. “Many of them have been previously publicly tagged as sympathizers of the NPA.” #

Negros killings prelude to martial law – NPA

By Visayas Today

The string of killings in Negros Oriental over the past two weeks and the deployment of more police personnel to the province are meant to “condition public opinion” prior to placing Negros under martial law, communist rebels claimed on Tuesday, July 30.

Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde has announced the deployment of 300 more Special Action Force personnel to Negros in the wake of the killings, which have claimed at least a score of civilian lives since rebels killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town on July 18.

In a phone interview with Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod’s Art Tayhopon, Ka Ann Jacinto, deputy spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, the New People’s Army unit operating in Central Negros, noted that the recent murders bore the hallmarks of “Tokhang,” the name police have given to their anti-drug operations but which has also become synonymous to extrajudicial killings.

She also claimed these were a continuation of Oplan Sauron, the code name for two police operations in late December last year and March 30 that left 20 persons dead. Authorities claimed the fatalities were rebel suspects who fought back when served warrants but the victims’ families invariably said they were executed inside their homes.

Jacinto brushed off police and military attempts to lay the blame for the killings on the rebels, saying many of those killed, including local government officials, were known “progressives” who “sympathized with and supported the peasants’ struggles.”

These, she said, included lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who had been included on the “kill list” of a shadowy anti-communist group before he was killed on July 23; the siblings and educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa as well as Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan of Guihulngan who were among the seven persons murdered on July 25; Canlaon City Councilor Ramon “Bobby” Jalandoni and Panubigan barangay captain Ernesto Posadas, killed mere minutes of each other early Saturday, July 27; and former Ayungon mayor Edsel Enardecido and his cousin Leo, slain two hours later and who Jacinto described as staunch anti-mining advocates.

Jacinto also addressed the graffiti spray painted on the homes of Jalandoni, Posadas and Enardecido, which proclaimed “Mabuhay ang NPA” and accused the three of being “traitors,” saying “it is not the habit of the NPA to paint messages during military operations.”

The rebels, she stressed, “issue press releases or statements detailing the decisions of the revolutionary people’s court or the reasons for military actions against legitimate military targets” as in the case of the four officers killed in Ayungon.

The NPA has said the four had disguised themselves as employees of the Environment department allegedly to conduct surveillance on more targets for Sauron.

The police and military claim the four were tortured and executed, but the NPA maintain they died in a rebel ambush. #

Another murder in Canlaon hours before bells toll vs killings

By Visayas Today

Just five hours before church bells were to start tolling on Sunday, July 28, to call for an end to the wave of violence sweeping across Negros Oriental province, another person was killed in Canlaon City where, the day before, gunmen barged into the homes of a councilor and a barangay captain, killing them in cold blood.

An initial report from the Canlaon police identified the victim as Anaciancino Rosalita, married, of Barangay Bucalan, who was shot dead at the Oval Public Market in Barangay Panubigan.

The village is also where Councilor Ramon “Bobby Jalandoni” and Panubigan barangay captain Ernesto Posadas were murdered in the early hours of Saturday, July 27. Just hours after these murders, in Ayungon town, gunmen also stormed the home of former mayor Edsal Enardecido, killing him and his cousin Leo.

The report said a concerned citizen phoned the city police station to report the shooting incident around 3:05 p.m. at the Oval Public Market.

No other details were available.

Since July 18, when communist rebels ambushed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon, more than 20 civilians have been killed in various shooting incidents.

The bloodiest day was Thursday, July 25, when seven died, including sibling educators and a village chief in Guihulngan City, and a man and his year-old son in Sta. Catalina town. Among the other victims was lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was shot dead, also in Guihulngan, on July 23.

The bloodshed prompted the four bishops of Negros – Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Patricio Buzon of Bacolod and Louie Gabines of Kabankalan – to issue a joint pastoral statement ordering church bells to be rung throughout Negros island at 8 o’clock every night “until the killings stop.”

They have also issued an “Oratio Imperata to End the Killings in Negros Island.”

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 issues oratio imperata against Negros killings

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos issued another pastoral appeal asking the people of Negros Oriental to pray with him following the murder of four more civilians early Saturday morning.

In his third pastoral letter this week, Bishop Alminaza issued an urgent call to prayer and action to end the killings in Negros Island via an oratio imperata.

“Heavenly Father, the source of life and foundation of peace, we your children mourn, worry, and are anxious because of the successive murders of our brothers and sisters.

We beg you, awaken the minds of those who don’t even care, disturb the conscience of those who author the killings, touch the hearts of those who support the murders, and comfort those who mourn.

Give us the strength to fight evil with good, and to reject crooked ways. Protect us from the lies of the devil, and free our country from the power of Satan. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

(Alminaza’s Oratio Imperata of Cebu)

An oratio imperata is a short Roman Catholic invocative prayer a bishop issues in times of grave need and calamities.

Alminaza’s appeal came after four more executions within his diocese were reported by human rights organizations.

“Today, in Canlaon City and in Ayungon, Negros Oriental, four lives again perished from gun barrels of criminals. When life is always sacred, these criminals have treated life as dispensable,” the prelate said.

Former Ayungon mayor Edcel Enardecido and his cousin Leo Enardecido were killed around 2:30 a.m. while Canlaon City Councilor Bobby Jalandoni and Barangay Panubigan Chairperson Ernesto Posadas were killed separately, bringing to at least 21 the deaths from a wave of violence that has swept the province of Negros Oriental since a week ago.

Bishop’s third pastoral appeal this week.

Alminaza said three of the latest victims were government officials close to the hearts of the poor in their localities.

“While serving as elected officials, they wholeheartedly defended those who have less in life and promoted programs to help them,” Alminaza said.

“Those who were killed are persons; they are not just numbers or statistics! We fervently pray that we may not continue counting dead bodies; that every one of us will continue protecting human lives,” he added.

The prelate said the “pattern of systemic killings” is alarming.

“Who will be next?” he asked.

Alminaza issued his first pastoral letter two days after the killing of human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad in Dumaguete City last July 23.

Alminaza condemned Trinidad’s murder and the wounding of his wife and called for the resumption of the peace process between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as a way to stop the attacks on civilians alleged to be supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

After the killing of three more civilians last Thursday, July 24, an angered Alminaza issued his second pastoral letter last Friday calling for the ringing of church bells around his diocese at 8 PM every evening starting Sunday.

Before that day ended, however, four more were killed, bringing to seven the number of civilians murdered last Thursday.

“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 second pastoral appeal.

“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 second pastoral appeal exhorted the government to act on ending the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)