Pre-SONA Statement on Negros Killings

Pre-SONA Statement on Negros Killings
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law…1 Cor 15:55-56

Amid a global health crisis, unjust killings across the country continue. We, sadly, must admit that it is unlikely for our government to use its power to stop this, because from the very start of the Duterte administration, it is officially endorsed. A significant portion of our people, tricked into believing the promise of “change”, congratulated the administration under the President’s rule for allegedly freeing our country from terrorism and crime. The only thing it was able to do, however, is stain its hands with the blood of innocents whose silence it wanted, and of the increasing victims of COVID-19 whom it has chosen to neglect by pursuing instead the Anti-Terrorism Law to legitimize impunity.

“Thou shall not kill.” This is always the mantra not just of Jewish-Christian tradition, but of all other faiths. Killings are always against faith. Always immoral!

We can never instill discipline through violence, for it could only ignite more violence, soaking us in blood.

The spate of killings in Guihulngan and in other parts of our country must end. Our Diocese is committed in the pursuit of just peace, and we urge our local government and the military forces not to resort to red-tagging. Through pseudo-campaigns for peace and order, they have been unrelenting in justifying attacks and sowing intimidation and fear.

As pastor of the Church in Negros, I call for peace between our state forces and groups, even those who are dubbed as rebels, who express dissent at the ways of the government. I plead to our government to stop the immoral killings of our people.

The war-on-drugs and now the war against terrorism have rippled into war-on-rights, spilling blood among our flock. Our Diocese bleeds, and we are crying for mercy. In these ‘wars’, we have lost activists, human rights advocates, environmentalists, farm leaders, police men, soldiers, lawyers, doctors, government officials, and ordinary citizens­—not a single one of whom had been tried or convicted for the crimes they were accused of committing!

Our Diocese opposes this Anti-Terrorism Law, which in itself transforms our society from a governing body into a criminal state. The government must respect freedom of expression, should not give unlawful power to state forces to arrest and inflict terror, and must never desecrate the people’s civil and democratic rights.

Our situation during this pandemic calls for restraint and discerning governance. All efforts must be centered in addressing the COVID-19 crisis with integral medical solutions, and not focused on disguised approaches that are making our people suffer more.

President Duterte promised during his campaigns that change was coming – and indeed it came, but only for the worse. In his upcoming SONA, we appeal to the President not to turn a blind eye on the dire state of our people. Today, the spate of deaths continues not only through state-endorsed killings, but also through rampant hunger, loss of livelihood, and environmental degradation, among many others. We are tired of hearing unwarranted jokes and threats in his speeches; we call on the President to listen to the cries of the people, present concrete solutions in his SONA, and serve in the interest of the public.

Our people, too, must discern, act, and speak: Sobra Na! We call for all to participate in a people’s SONA, just as we will. Let us unite and defend our rights. Let us unite in caring for Life and protecting humanity!

Bishop of the Diocese of San Carlos
25 July 25 2020, Feast of St. James the Great