Peace talks, not military operations, for just, lasting peace
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
—Psalm 82:3 NIV
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) condemns in strongest terms the recent spate of massacres in the lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and in Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
Last Sept. 1, Emerito “Tatay Emok” Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development Inc., Dionel Campos, chair of Mapasu (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo were killed while the teachers and students of the school were harassed, thus driving hundreds of individuals away from their homes.
In Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, five lumad were killed in what the police and military assert was a “legitimate encounter” between state forces and the New People’s Army.
We uphold the statements of Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the National Priest Organization, and the Council of Priests of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI): Circumstantial evidence point to elements of the Philippine Army and the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Forces as the culprits behind the Lianga massacre.
We join the relatives and the IFI bishops in supporting the media statement of the lone survivor of the Pangantucan massacre—on how soldiers shot one by one his father, a brother and some relatives. We criticize the Philippine National Police for conducting the autopsy on the victims in the absence of family members and friends, thus placing doubt on the police report on the corresponding paraffin tests, which report the Armed Forces of the Philippines now uses in its assertions that the victims were all rebel combatants.
We call on government to ensure the safety of the lumad by ordering the withdrawal of the military from Pangantucan, Bukidnon, and from Lianga, Surigao del Sur; and by dismantling the AFP-organized and -supported paramilitary forces.
We call on authorities to give justice to the victims of these two horrendous massacres and to permit independent fact-finding missions to look into these cases.
We call on authorities, our churches and international partners to support the victims, including the displaced individuals and their families, with basic necessities such as food, temporary shelter and medical, psychosocial, as well as spiritual care.
We call for a stop to the militarization in Mindanao by ending the government anti-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which has been linked to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped-up charges, torture, massacres and the displacement of thousands of individuals.
We continue to cry for the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front in order to address the root causes of the armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country—for a just and lasting peace.
—THE MOST REVEREND EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA, IFC’s Obispo Maximo XII, and chair; National Council of Churches in the Philippines, REV. REX R.B. REYES JR., general secretary, NCCP
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