‘Please end killings,” Negros bishop appeals
By Roy Lagarde
July 25, 2019
A Catholic bishop has called for an end to the “ambience of fear and violence” in Negros Island following another killing of a human rights defender.
The spate of violence in the Western Visayas region claimed another life on July 23 after Atty. Anthony Trinidad was shot dead and his wife injured when they were ambushed in Guihulngan City.
Trinidad, a lawyer for political prisoners in Negros, was reportedly among the names in a hit list by an alleged anti-communist group.
In a pastoral letter, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos has urged the government to “end the killings” and “let justice and peace reign”.
“We lost another defender of justice,” he said. “Our people are longing for an end of barbaric killings due to the drug war and the anti-insurgency campaign.”
While not accusing anyone behind the spate of killings in Negros, he urged the government to promote “integral peace” and resume the peace talks with the left-wing rebels.
Integral peace, according to him, benefits the country and the future generation.
“We reiterate the call for integral peace — one that addresses social injustice and promotes economic equality and inclusive development for all,” Alminaza said.
“There is a need to resolve issues, advance a common dream for integral peace, and resume the peace negotiations,” he added.
While there were already attempts of developing an achievable peace agreement, the prelate stressed that both sides have to return to the negotiating table.
“Peace cannot be achieved through a one-sided or any militarist approach,” he pointed out.
Echoing the call of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), an interfaith peace movement of church leaders, Alminaza also made the following appeals:
• Avoid any militarist maneuverings or strategy.
• Declare a unilateral ceasefire.
• Enhance openness on both sides.
• Embrace the pathways to peace: socio-economic reforms, land reform, socialized framework (health, education and housing), national industrialization.
President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the government’s peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in March.
The Duterte administration had also sought the declaration of the communist movement as a terrorist organization.
“Peace cannot be achieved by guns— nor by killing fellow Filipinos,” Bishop Alminaza said.
In 2018, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who provided assistance to families of slain sugarcane farmers in Negros, was gunned down by still unidentified assailants. In April 2019, another human rights defender, Bernardo Patigas, was killed in Escalante City.
Bishop denounces another murder of rights worker in Negros
By CBCP News
April 26, 2019
A Catholic bishop has appealed for an end to killings in Negros Oriental province following another murder of a human rights advocate.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said these “barbaric and calculated assassinations must end”.
“We should not tolerate this kind of crime,” Alminaza said.
Bernardino Patigas Sr., a reelectionist councilor of Escalante City who worked with human rights groups, was shot dead on April 22.
His killing came three weeks after masked policemen killed 14 farmers in the same province.
Aside from his human rights work, Patigas was a president of the Parish Pastoral Council and a mission partner of the Carmelites in Escalante City.
“He tirelessly worked for the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) program of the parish,” Alminaza said.
According to him, Patigas “selflessly” gave his life serving the oppressed and exploited sugarcane workers of the Negros island.
“With his untiring commitment to the cause of the poor, he received numerous death threats and harassment,” said Alminaza.
The bishop called on government to investigate seriously the killing of Patigas and other cases of violence in the province.
“It is my ardent prayer that instead of perpetrating violence, they may open their eyes to the reality of truth -that life is precious, that it is a sin to kill,” he said.
Bishop demands probe into killing of 14 Negros farmers
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos. PHOTO FROM BP. ALMINAZA’S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT
By Roy Lagarde
March 31, 2019
A Catholic bishop wants full investigation into the weekend slaying of 14 persons, including a church lay minister, in Negros Oriental province.
Authorities said the 14 were killed while allegedly resisting to be searched for illegal firearms in separate operations in Canlaon City and in the towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina.
The joint army and police operations, they said, were part of the government’s campaign against loose firearms held by suspected members of the New People’s Army.
Human rights groups, however, deplored the killings saying that the fatalities were farmers and not communist rebels.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos demanded further investigation into the incident, amid claims of human rights violations.
“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” he said.
One the fatalities, he said, was a lay minister at Canlaon parish and its administrator “can vouch for his moral character”.
“Others were not even shown the supposed arrest papers. Some of those killed belonged to our Mission Station in Masulog,” Alminaza said.
The bishop appealed to the authorities to ensure due process and human rights are respected in the conduct of their duties.
“We don’t want to turn our beautiful island of Negros into a killing field!” he added.
The prelate also warned that human rights abuses committed by the government forces would only make them “best recruiters” for the underground movement.
“Please make sure you are not adding more reasons for our people to get disillusioned with our government and peacekeepers,” Alminaza added.
“But I believe there are still those among you with a lot of common sense, right values and principles, capable of creating avenues for dialogue as a way to lasting peace and not through violence and human rights violation,” he said.
On Oct. 20, 2018, still unidentified gunmen killed nine sugar farmers, including four women and two minors, at a hacienda in Sagay City’s Bulanon village.
Bishop Alminaza said the “tragic incident” only unmask the “ugly face” of the prevailing agrarian problem in Negros.
Bishop deplores killing of Negros sugar workers
Farmers protest the killing of nine sugar workers outside the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Bacolod City, October 22, 2018. PHOTO FROM NFSW FACEBOOK PAGE
By CBCP News
October 22, 2018
A Catholic bishop has condemned the murder of nine sugar farmers in Negros Occidental province and joined in the call for justice for the victims.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the killings only unmask the long standing violence that farmers under hacienda system have been subjecfed to.
“The tragic incident reveals the ugly face of the prevailing agrarian problem in Negros that remains unresolved,” he said.
The victims were reportedly eating dinner inside the tents when they were shot by still unidentified gunmen at a hacienda in Sagay City’s Bulanon village on Saturday.
The attack claimed nine lives, including four women and two minors.
The National Federation of Sugar Workers, where the victims belong, said the attack occurred on the first night of the land cultivation area or “bungkalan” in the hacienda.
Under bungkalan, farm workers would occupy and collectively cultivate lands covered by the government’s agrarian reform program to help farmers survive the “dead season” in the sugar industry.
The group said that of the 424,130 hectares of sugar lands in Negros Island, 33.99% with 50 hectares or more are owned by only 1,860 big landlords, 30% with 10 to 50 hectares are owned by just 6,820 big and small landlords.
While the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was only at 40%, the NFSW estimates that majority of 53,320 farmers and agricultural workers only own 36% of the sugar lands.
And due to lack of support services, the progressive group estimates that 70% of sugar lands that have been distributed by the government had been leased.
The NFSW also noted how sugar workers in haciendas, on the average, get P80-P120 daily despite the minimum wage pegged at P245 per day.
“It is morally right and just for the sugar workers and peasants in Negros Occidental to undertake their Land Cultivation Areas,” said Alminaza.