THE four Catholic dioceses in Negros Island again condemned the rising number of killings due to the National Government’s war on drugs.
Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod City, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos City, Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete City, and Diocesan Administrator Rolando Nueva of Kabankalan City, in a joint statement Friday, said they sensed “the grief, the anguish, the fear, the confusion, even the outrage and the many troubling questions of family members, colleagues, classmates, friends and communities of those who were killed without due process, either as part of our government’s war on drugs or counter-insurgency measures or as plain civilian banditry.”
The church leaders said they acknowledged the enormity and gravity of the drug problem as well as the peace and order situation.
“They reveal to us not only the political and criminal issues involved. They also and more importantly mirror to us the deeper social ills plaguing for so long our country – much more our island of Negros! These social problems are deeply felt in areas where there is defective governance and great socio-economic-political-cultural and ecological imbalances,” they said.
They added that they deplore the glaring selectiveness of handling the drug war where the poor are the main victims.
“Due process is strongly demanded in cases where rich and influential people are involved like children of top government officials while the poor who are merely suspected of the crime are summarily executed. We believe that this drug war as presently waged is based on a shortsighted and superficial understanding of the problem which needs a more comprehensive and integrated approach,” they added.
Moreover, the church leaders challenged themselves and their dioceses to pray constantly that the country may be effectively rid of the drug menace, but in a manner that is just and lawful; to intensify their work of evangelization particularly in the area of forming consciences and promoting the culture of life, starting in the families; and to offer their cooperation and collaboration with government, civil society, and other churches in the work of drug prevention and rehabilitation.
They said they only reaffirmed their statement last year, condemning the increasing number of killings. They reiterated the sanctity of human life.
“This statement has become even more necessary because of the unabated and appallingly increasing incidents of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) as part of ‘One Time, Big Time’ campaign, riding-in-tandem shooting, or anti-insurgency operations, as well as the ambushes perpetrated by the underground revolutionary forces. We are greatly alarmed, for example, by the spate of killings committed even in broad daylight that is still going on in the city of Guihulngan and the resulting climate of fear, demoralization, and unpeace,” the church leaders said.
Buzon, in a text message, said they issued a statement as “a reaffirmation of our first joint statement against EJKs, as well as an alarm on recent developments, like the unabated killings in Guihulngan, selective and myopic handling of the drug war where the main victims are the poor.”
“What is more important though are the three challenges we impose on ourselves,” he added.