Bishop asks Duterte: Don't declare martial law in Negros

SAN Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte not to place Negros Island under martial law, saying such declaration would just worsen the violence.

"We also appeal to the President NOT to declare 'Martial Law' in Negros, as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo insinuated that the President will use his emergency powers to “quell lawless violence... and crush all forms of threat," Alminaza said in a statement issued Thursday, August 1.

"Martial Law is neither the answer to the centuries-old agrarian problem nor to the decades of armed rebellion. Martial rule during the Marcos era did not lead to genuine peace; instead, it worsened the insurgency problem," he added.

Instead of declaring martial law, Alminaza said it would be better if the government will aim to address the roots of armed conflict in a bid for a just and lasting peace.

Similarly, the prelate said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should also do its part in attaining peace by agreeing with the continuation of peace negotiations.

"We believe that the first step to integral peace is the continuation of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)," said the bishop.

"We remind both sides of the armed conflict that genuine peace can never be achieved through military adventurism and tit-for-tat conflict. We reiterate our call for integral peace, one that addresses the roots of social injustice," added Alminaza.

Alminaza was the first Catholic Church leader in Negros to condemn the recent spate of killings in Negros Oriental and the first to call on all churches under his diocese to ring their bells at 8 p.m. nightly until the killings stop.

He and three other Negros bishops have issued an Oratio Imperata against the killings.

Seventeen people were fatally shot from July 18 to July 27, 2019, including the four policemen who were allegedly executed in front of villagers in Barangay Mabato, Ayungon town.

Alminaza said military rule has never been and will never be the solution against violence and killings.

"Even now, without any formal declaration of Martial Law, government commandos and armed partisans are sowing fear and disregarding due process and the rule of law. Even now, human and civil rights are being trampled upon, leaving more and more widows and orphans in our midst," he said.

"Enough! Have we not learned from the lessons of Marcos-era martial law? Are we not still reeling from those years of political repression and violent reprisals?" he added.

Malacañang on Thursday said Duterte might declare martial law in Negros Oriental over the spate of killings in the province.

Panelo said such an option is being considered in a bid "to quell the lawless violence engulfing the island, as well as to crush all forms of threats aimed to destroy the government".

On Thursday, the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (Nassa) urged the praying of the "Oratio Imperata to End the Killings in Negros Island" and the tolling of bells every night at 8 p.m. in all parishes nationwide until the killings stop.

Nassa is the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)


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