W. Visayas bishops ask gov’t: Hear cries against mega dam project

W. Visayas bishops ask gov’t: Hear cries against mega dam project

Wester Visayas bishops, top from left: Cardinal Jose Advincula of Capiz, Archbishop Jose Lazo of Jaro, Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Bishop Louie Galbines of Kabankalan, Bishop Marvyn Maceda of San Jose de Antique, Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc of Kalibo, and Bishop Narciso Abellana of Romblon.

By CBCP News

January 16, 2021

Manila, Philippines

Western Visayas’ Catholic bishops called on the government to hear the cries against a mega dam project following the killings of indigenous peoples on Panay Island.

In a pastoral letter issued Friday, the eight bishops in the region condemned the recent atrocities and called for an independent investigation into the incident.

They said those killed were leading a fight against the Jalaur mega dam construction that would displace them from their ancestral land.

To prevent further bloodshed, the bishops urged the government to “listen to the legitimate cries of the Tumandoks against the construction of the Jalaur mega dam”.

“We call on everyone to be highly vigilant in defending the sacredness of life and in respecting and protecting the rights of all,” they said.

At least nine Tumandok tribespeople in the upstream villages of Capiz and Iloilo provinces were killed and a number were arrested in predawn raids on Dec. 30.

Authorities alleged the fatalities were communist rebels who fought back during the joint police and military operations in search of illegal firearms and explosives.

But the families of those killed refuted police’s claim, adding that the supposedly recovered firearms were planted.

Various human rights groups also believe the killed Tumandoks were red-tagged because of their strong opposition to the dam project.

Signatories of the statement include Cardinal Jose Advincula of Capiz, Archbishop Jose Lazo of Jaro, and bishops Marvyn Maceda of San Jose de Antique, Patricio Buzon of Bacolod, Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Louie Galbines of Kabankalan, Jose Corazon Tala-oc of Kalibo, and Narciso Abellana of Romblon.

“Let us all together contribute whatever we can to stop the killings; respect the rights of people to live in peace; and stop the militarization of the IP communities,” they said.

To protect the police against false accusations, the bishops also asked that they be required to use body cameras.

“This will also protect the civilians from the use of violence or abuse of power such as planIng of evidence, illegal arrest and even killings,” they said.

The pastoral letter will be read in all Masses in all churches of Western Visayas on January 24.

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