Church bells toll against extrajudicial killings in Negros Occidental
On 28 July, the local Church will start a protest campaign in parishes, missions and religious houses until killings stop. Bishop Alminaza tells army and police to "Maintain peace, do not create violence”.
Manila (AsiaNews) – Some Catholics in Negros Occidental (Western Visayas, central Philippines) have launched a protest campaign to raise awareness against a wave of unresolved murders of farmers and human rights activists.
According to CBCPNews, the news service of the Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Bishop of San Carlos, Mgr Gerardo Alminaza, announced that, starting at 8 am on 28 July, church bells will toll in parishes, mission stations and religious houses “until the killings stop”.
The protest by the local Church comes in the wake of a long trail of blood that seems to have no end. Local sources report that in the last three days alone, at least seven people have died in various incidents.
“Let the tolling of bells remind us that the senseless killings are inhuman,” Bishop Alminaza said in his appeal. “Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths.”
According to human rights watchdog Defend Negros #Stop the Killings Network, 74 people have been the victims of extrajudicial killings on Negros Island since January 2017.
The prelate urged local public officials to speak up “and join us in the cry to end the senseless killings”.
“Please speak up! Let not your silence add to the growing number of killings. Let not your silence embolden more the criminals,” he said.
Bishop Alminaza also appealed to police and the military to “act to promote peace, not act to instil fear”, urging them to “Maintain peace, do not create violence! Act within the law, not beyond it.”
The reference here is to the wave of murders that has swept the country after President Rodrigo Duterte declared war on drugs. The latter has come under close scrutiny by the United Nations, which is set to open an investigation into the matter in the near future.
Meanwhile, the police have recently begun to crack down even harder, with arbitrary arrests and charges (including priests and nuns) against those who protest.