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Editor’s Note: Negros Oriental is a province located in Central Visayas, Philippines. At least 15 persons, including 4 policemen and a school principal, were killed in separate shooting incidents in a span of just one week in this province. July 25 was the bloodiest with 7 dead in just one day.
We are concerned about the spate of killings happening in Negros Island. Death seemingly hangs on the head of those people who help the marginalized group in Negros and those being suspected as part of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Last July 24, Atty. Anthony Trinidad was mercilessly murdered by riding-in-tandem on his way home from a court hearing. He was 53 and survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife was also caught in the ambush, Novie Marie. She took a bullet in the shoulder, but survived.
Prior to his sudden passing, the good lawyer was already receiving death threats for several months. He was included in a hit list of an anti-communist group, Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Kumunista (Kagubak), through flyers distributed in the area. He might have been listed due to his involvement in helping and defending political prisoners or because of the cases of peasant leaders he handled in the region from 2007 to 2008.
Atty. Trinidad was described by his family as a kindhearted and soft-spoken man who was always willing to go out of his way to help people in need.
Barely 48 hours after Atty. Trinidad’s death, public servant Romeo Alipan, and siblings Arthur and Ardale Bayawan who both work in educational institutions were also shot dead.
We, at the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) mourn the demise of these people whose lives were dedicated to helping those in need, particularly those who suffered injustices and prejudices in the form of human rights violations.
“We are saddened and strongly condemn this new attack on our lawyers, especially those who are helping the poor. We continue to search for genuine peace and progress and continue to place our hope in our God who listens to cry of the poor,” Fr. Chris Gonzales, PMPI Negros Cluster Point Person and Social Action Center Director of Bacolod said.
PMPI asks for a proper and impartial investigation of all these killings. The culprits must be held liable. Those victims being suspected as having links with the Communists do not deserve to die merely because of this supposed association. They can be arrested and put behind bars if found liable of criminal acts but should not be killed in this senseless, brutal way. The culture of impunity and violence must be stopped now.
KILLINGS MUST STOP NOW
Since the new administration assumed office in 2016, 38 lawyers and judges have been assassinated. Furthermore, the Defend Negros #StoptheKillings network recorded 74 victims of extrajudicial killings in the region since January of 2017, including the deaths of the 14 farmers in Canlaon City, and Majuyod and Santa Catalina towns.
“Have we become a nation of murderers? Are not government institutions mandated to protect citizens? Why are they so useless in catching killers? Or have the murderers become instruments to put down people perceived as threats to this government? Should we not hold the President liable because he arouses the killer instincts of people without holding them accountable? Of what use is his police and big intelligence fund?” Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishop Convenor of PMPI NCR-Urban cluster lamented on the continued killings in Negros.
“This barbarity and impunity pervading in our country must stop now,” Bishop Pabillo stressed.
The Diocese of San Carlos in Negros, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, immediately issued a pastoral letter and called for justice following the murder of Atty. Trinidad.
“‘End the killings!’ is the collective cry among us here living in the Negros Island. This is an appeal not only of families of farmers, activists, lawyers, rebels, soldiers, police whose family member has become a victim of summary execution; but also, of the ordinary citizens who are longing for peace,” Bishop Alminaza said in a pastoral letter.
We from the PMPI, a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace and faith-based institutions join our partners in Negros in putting to task their government leaders in Negros Island to steadfastly curb these rampant killings in the region.
We call on all Filipinos to echo the same call – ‘Stop the killings’ because this is not only happening in Negros. Partners in the NCR, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Central Luzon continue to be challenged by reports of killings.
“Let us raise us voices now. Let us not wait until it happens to our own families. Let not violence and impunity be the standard way of life. Let the way of peace and dialogue be the norm of a society. Every life is sacred. No one has the right to take away one’s life. The Filipino people and the future generation deserve to live in a state of Shalom. In its fullest sense it means peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. We deserve better than what we have today.” stressed Yoly Esguerra, PMPI National Coordinator.