BISHOP Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod called on Negrenses to overcome and not allow the sense of “helplessness” apparently hounding the country today.

Buzon, who led the prayer rally at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City until early evening Thursday, September 21, said with the overwhelming popularity of the current administration, “we are seemingly helpless.”

“With all the happenings in the country, sometimes we feel hopeless because no less than the government seems doing acts against human rights,” the bishop said.

At least 300 parishioners joined the prayer rally dubbed “Martial Law Never Again: A Day of Remembering” held during the 45th year of the declaration of the Martial Law.

During the program, lawyer Cesar Beloria Jr. discussed the legal basis of martial law and its effects on human rights.

Negrense martial law victim Vilma Riopay, meanwhile, shared her experiences under the Marcos regime.

Riopay, who was then a church worker, said she was arrested by military officers for allegedly having involvement with the rebel movement.

“I was tortured and almost killed. I was being forced to admit a crime I did not commit,” she said.

Parishioners, along with members of the clergy, lit candles and braved the rain for a procession around the city public plaza.

In his message, Buzon said the prayer rally is a sad remembering of the dark past that has brought sufferings to the people.

He said many people tend to forget, and seemed to be “manhid” (unfeeling) and act like that nothing is wrong.

“How many deaths will it take for us to know that too many people have already died?” Buzon asked.

“We are gathered here to primarily pray. There is still the power of God whom we call to touch the hearts of everyone especially those in government and bring them back to the sensibility of what is sacred," the bishop said.

He added: “This prayer rally is not a political exercise, rather a gathering intended to awaken the people of social realities.”

Asked if the church is worried with the possible restoration of martial law, the bishop said “there are signs and attempts, we can all see that, but we trust in the wisdom of our people.”

The bishop is optimistic that “the more we let our voices be heard about our intolerance for the restoration of martial law, the more officials will come to their senses.”

Buzon also said that what initially happened to the budgets of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and two other agencies was an embarrassing event.

The House of Representatives approved a P1,000 budget for the CHR, Energy Regulatory Commission, and National Commission for Indigenous Peoples’ but eventually restored their original budgets on Wednesday.

“But now that they have returned the agencies’ budget that is rightfully theirs, the government officials have listened to the sentiments of the people,” the bishop noted.

The declaration of the ringing of the bells, which will be conducted every night for 40 days starting September 23, capped the prayer rally.

The pealing of the bells is one of the many practices the diocese wants to restore and seen to become more meaningful especially in the context of what is happening now, he added.

Anti-Duterte protests

Thousands of members of militant, progressive, and sectoral groups in Negros Occidental also joined the nationwide protest to mark the martial law declaration anniversary.

They bannered the “rising” human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings brought by the administration's campaign against drugs, and terrorism.

At least 700 protesters led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and September 21 Movement staged a cultural show and marched at the main streets of Kabankalan City, bringing with them the call to not forget martial law.

In Escalante City, about 500 rallyists trooped to the city public plaza condeming President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly idolizing Marcos.

Another anti-Duterte protest was also conducted at the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City.

Shouting “never forget, never again,” some 100 protesters slammed what they called the US-Duterte fascist regime.

Clarissa Dagatan, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros, said the direction of the administration is going towards the 1972 martial law declaration.

“While we continue to call for justice for the human rights violation victims, we need to continue to show our opposition against the possible martial law restoration,” Dagatan added.