LAY leaders in communities near banana plantations have slammed the "defiance" of a non-governmental organization on the stand of Catholic bishops in the region on aerial spraying as an agricultural method.

Early this month, a pastoral letter from Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla stated that the church finds no sufficient evidence to warrant a call for the banning of aerial spraying.

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The letter was issued after the Catholic clergy called both pro and against aerial spraying advocates to present their sides.

A statement issued by the anti-aerial spraying group, Interface Development Interventions (Idis), branded all Davao bishops as "anti-people and anti-Christ" following the issuance of the pastoral letter.

The religious sector has been appalled by the statements of Idis.

In a newspaper report, not Sun.Star Davao, Lia Jasmin Esquillo Villarin, Idis executive director, was quoted over the weekend as saying "the pastoral letter of the local Catholic Church is inconsistent with being pro-life."

"Their claims pushing for the ban on aerial spraying is what is indefensible, and not the stand of the bishops that has been clearly supported by various scientific communities," Efren Retorca, the head of liturgy of the Basic Christian Community of Barangay Lizada.

Retorca suggested that the rational thing for Idis to do is "to heed the bishops’ counsel” and not to muddle the issue and to engage in meaningful dialogue, particularly with the scientific community so that they will be relevant and useful in promoting Mindanao's growth and development.

"We respect her whether she is agnostic or an atheist but calling our bishops names because they did not agree with her position on aerial spraying is foul,” said Arlene Aquino of the Basic Christian Community of San Isidro Labrador in Bangkas Heights in Davao City.

"And the real story is that there is no suffering among the people due to aerial spraying,” she added.

Benigno Layona, a farmhand in a Daliaon plantation and a "Pangulo sa Pag-Ampo" or prayer leader of the Sto. Nino Chapel in the village, said that he is praying for Lia's enlightenment even as he asked how an advocacy that seeks to destroy people's livelihood be pro-life referring to IDIS call to ban aerial spraying.