Is it not divine providence that the International Human Rights Day is observed during the Christian Season of Advent? We wait—like captive Israel of old—for a new dawning of God’s justice and peace. How beﬁting for human rights day to fall at this time!
The human rights situation in the Philippines is dismal.
In Negros alone, 87 extra-judicial killings have been documented since the beginning of 2017.
There are also 100 political prisoners in Negros, 95 of which were arrested during the present administration.
Nationally, at least 297 political extra-judicial killings, 429 frustrated killings, and 11 enforced disappearances are matched by thousands upon thousands of killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs.”
Evil has descended to hover like a dark night over poor and marginalized communities throughout the land.
We ring the bells each evening in Negros, as a reminder that life is sacred.
We wish to shake the conscience of those carrying out dastardly death operations, commanded from above. We wish to be like a balm of compassion for those who have had loved ones killed or who have been unjustly incarcerated. We wish to quicken the spirits of the faithful to stand with courage for peace based on justice.
As President Duterte has expressed a willingness to reopen peace talks with National Democratic Front in the Philippines, we continue to ring the bells as an encouragement. Addressing the roots of the armed conﬂict through peace negotiations is leaps and bounds better than continuing brutal and blatant killings.
We encourage both parties to return to peace negotiations and deliver meaningful change—including socio-economic reforms— urgently needed by our people. We encourage both parties to respect previously signed bilateral agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Interna’onal Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which will go a long way in addressing and mitigating violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.
We must open our hearts to build genuine peace and dare to dream of a better life and more just society for the toiling majority.
To spur the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, peace advocates are also calling for the release of NDFP peace consultants.
One such consultant is Francisco “Fr. Frank” Fernandez, Jr. from Negros island. He can be released on humanitarian grounds, as a 70-year-old in frail health.
Fr. Frank will do much more for peace outside the state’s prisons. His work as a peace consultant can help to enliven eﬀorts to unearth, understand, and address the root causes of the armed conﬂict. Especially given the fabricated charges that have been lodged against him, he could also be released because he is protected under the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees (JASIG), a bilateral agreement to ensure the safety and security of those who participate in the peace talks.
We ring the bells because life is sacred! We ring the bells to awaken our people to work for justice and peace in the Philippines!
The killings must stop. The disappeared surfaced. Political prisoners released. We must dare to strive to a new dawning, where peace and justice thrive.
Like God’s people of old, we keep watch and hope that God’s saving grace will encompass us again, and we will be pulled toward a future truly based on justice, righteousness and peace.
Resume the GRP-NDFP peace talks! Address the roots of the armed conﬂict! Work for a just and lasting peace!
+MOST REV. GERARDO A. ALMINAZA, DD, Bishop of San Carlos
Diocese of San Carlos
The Roman Catholic Bishop of San Carlos
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