WHO wouldn’t be concerned with the spate of killings in Negros Island?
I’m an environmentalist and a forest conservationist. I managed a community forest program in Salvador Benedicto and Calatrava. There, in Barangays Bagong Silang and Marcelo, the ties that bind us - project staff and the community - is to share our social and technical knowledge with the community.
However, the knowledge shared weren’t just limited to trees at diameter at breast heights and state policies on natural resource management. During campfire talks after a day’s rest of surveys and inventories of forest resources, the crews swapped story when they were at each other’s crosshairs as former New People’s Army (NPA) fighters and armed vigilantes. Later, they would sleep together in peace, side by side.
In international conferences and brown bag discussion in Europe and the U.S.A, I cited these experiences as best practices of right-based approach to sustain mountain development.
From best practices on sustainable development, Negros Island has to offer grave concerns of peace and order.
It is thus saddening to see armed violence flaring up again across the island. According to San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, the list of extrajudicial killing (EJK) victims in Negros since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2017 has risen to 84 from across the entire island.
The four Catholic bishops issued a joint pastoral statement condemning the killings and calling on the faithful to pray an Oratio Imperata (obligatory prayer) for an end to the bloodshed.
We can add to the list of the slain are police officers PCpl. Relebert Beronio, Pat. Raffy Callo, Pat. Roel Cabellon, and Pat. Marquino de Leon, ambushed at Sitio Yamot, Barangay Mabato in Ayungon town.
Yes, both sides are killing each other again, where civilians are the collateral damages, including a one-year old baby.
“This unfolding cycle of violence and vendetta is a matter of grave concern for us. 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’?” the Negros bishops said.
And for that, Church bells on Negros Island will start ringing daily at 8 p.m. starting on July 28 to call for an end to the bloodshed that is now gripping Negros Oriental province and claimed the lives of at least 13 persons in just five days.
“In the stillness of night, the tolling of the bells signifies our 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 prelates said.
May we again hear ring of bells to peal for peace and reconciliation. The United Nations’ handbook on reconciliation states that it is both a process and a goal. For the sake of the future, it needs to become a way of life. The bells of Leuven, due to ring again, will be a symbol of what is possible. (firstname.lastname@example.org)