THE four top officials of the Catholic Church in Negros have issued a collegial pastoral statement calling for an end to the killings on the island.
On Sunday, July 28, at 8 p.m., church bells tolled in response to the call of San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza to sound the bells until the killings stop.
Alminaza, Bishop Julito Cortes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, Bishop Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod and Bishop Louie Galbines of the Diocese of Kabankalan said in their pastoral statement that so much blood has already been spilled on the island.
The bishops said the blood of those killed cries to be heard. It calls out to the basic humanity to be one with those who have been afflicted by this violence.
They said the figures are staggering as nine were killed on October 20, 2018, six on December 27, 2018, and 14 on March 30 this year.
Five men were killed in the latest wave of shooting incidents on Saturday, July 27.
Police identified the fatalities as Canlaon City councilor Ramon Jalandoni and Barangay Panubigan captain Ernesto Posadas, former Ayungon town mayor Edsel Enardecido, his cousin Leo Enardecido, and Fedirico Sabejon, a resident of Siaton town.
The Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (Norppo) said armed men believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked and killed Jalandoni inside his home in Canlaon City.
The assailants also stormed Posadas' home, also in Canlaon City, and killed him on the spot.
The suspected insurgents then left several graffiti following the attacks such as "Mabuhay ang NPA (Long live the NPA) " before withdrawing from the area in a getaway vehicle.
In the town of Ayungon, armed men also broke into the home of the former town mayor and killed him and his cousin.
Sabejon, meanwhile, was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in the town's Barangay 3 on Friday.
Police Colonel Raul Tacaca, Norppo director, has placed the entire police force in the province on “red alert” following the incidents.
Only July 25, seven persons including a child were also killed. On July 23, lawyer Anthony Trinidad was gunned down in Guihulngan.
Five days earlier, on July 18, four police officers were allegedly executed by the communist rebels in Ayungon town.
"This is just to cite a few," the collegial pastoral statement said, adding that "nevertheless, these numbers fill us with deep sadness. This unfolding cycle of violence and vendetta is a matter of grave concern for us."
The bishops asked, "how many more killings will it take for us to be able to hear these cries, and be moved to say, we are our brother's keeper?"
"As your pastors, we unequivocally denounce this total disregard for the primacy and sanctity of human life," they said.
Tolling of bells
To remind the faithful of the value of life, the bishops instructed the four dioceses to toll the church bells in all parishes, chaplaincies, mission stations and religious houses every 8 p.m. until the killings stop.
They said in the stillness of night, the tolling of the bells signifies the communion as church.
"We are to remember those who have gone before us – including those whose lives have been snuffed by these killings – they, who are our brothers and sisters," the bishops added.
To deliver the people from violence, the bishops also asked the Catholics to pray the "Oratio Imperata" after the post-communion prayer in all Masses as a call to end the killings in Negros.
"We ask God to disturb those who are responsible for this evil and have blood in their hands that they may have a change of heart and be renewed," the statement read.