“STOP the killings!”
This was the appeal of Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos City in Negros Occidental, following the death of 14 people who were killed after they reportedly resisted arrest in police operations in three areas in Negros Oriental on March 30.
Members of the church led by Alminaza and Bishop Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod met with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (PNP) in a dialogue at the Bishop’s Palace in Bacolod City to discuss certain issues pertaining to the said killings.
It was a proactive approach initiated by the church. It was not a reactive thing just because something happened, he said.
Alminaza, who said that the killings happened in the oriental side can still be considered as massacre, said the burden is to prove the justification of the killings.
“Why don’t we start finding ways rather than killing each other to work for peace?” he asked.
“I hope there would be more avenues to have dialogues and address these things to avoid more killings to happen,” he said.
In March, eight persons were killed in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod town, and two in Sta. Catalina town brought by Oplan Sauron when police raided their houses through search warrants.
Human rights organizations condemned the said killings, claiming that those killed were farmers. But the PNP maintained that the operation was legitimate and that those killed were alleged rebels.
During the dialogue, Alminaza said the security forces were able to explain their sides, claiming they have followed the standard operating procedures during the implementation of the search warrants.
But he quipped that the issue there was the actual situation during the raid.
The burden if the killing is justified lies on the police, he said.
He said they have trust in the leadership of the security forces but sometimes they are not sure what happens on the ground.
Alminaza said they were told by the members of the PNP that they are open to be held accountable for what happened but they won’t be able to address the issue if there are no charges filed against them.
But Alminaza said the victim’s families refused to press charges against the police because they probably don’t want to undergo the ordeal.
“On our part, we will rely on the findings and investigation of the Commission on Human Rights to be able to bring all the grievances from the victims’ families to the proper forum,” he said.
“But we are appealing to the police if they can include to their investigation the stories of the people,” he added.
The PNP higher office is conducting an independent investigation on the incident, despite their claim that the operation was legal.
In fact, the police chiefs of the three areas and the police director had been relieved from their posts while investigation is ongoing.
We appeal to them to not just limit their investigation on police matter but also to see the impact and consequences of the operation they conducted to people, he said.
Alminaza said the police also do not want themselves to be considered as killing machines.
“The root cause of the insurgency is the ongoing social inequality because basic social services do not reach the poorest of the poor,” he said.
“We need to find better ways on how to go about the problem,” he added.
On April 10, Alminaza said they will be having a day of rage to appeal to stop the killings, something that should not happened again in Negros or any elsewhere in the world.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Dennis Agustin, deputy regional director for administration of Police Regional Office- Central Visayas, said they will wait for the result of the fact-finding committee.
Colonel Raul Tacaca, provincial director of Negros Oriental Police Provincal Office can return to his post if proven there’s no lapses on the operation. (GYM)