Methodist Church: Militarization has turned Negros into ‘howling wilderness’

Jodesz Gavilan
Methodist Church: Militarization has turned Negros into ‘howling wilderness’
'The deployment of additional troops complicated the already worsening human rights situation in the areas,' says the United Methodist Church

MANILA, Philippines – The United Methodist Church condemned the rising number of killings in Negros Island and the deployment of more troops there that has sowed fear among residents.

UMC’s Philippine Central Conference-Board of Church and Society slammed troop deployment to Negros in a statement signed by Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, the bishop assigned to the PCC-BCS; PCC-BCS Chairperson Reverend Genesis Antonio; and PCC-BCS Executive Director Reverend Aniceto Villalon Jr.

“Indeed, militarization has taken its toll on the Island of Negros and its people. It has reduced it into a howling wilderness, where death squads, human rights violations, and extreme poverty reign supreme, and principles like respect for human rights, civil liberties and the dignity of man have become totally unheard of,” PCC-BCS said.

In a speech on August 6, President Rodrigo Duterte said that instead of declaring martial law in Negros island to stop the spate of kiilings there, he would “fill up” the island with soldiers. In a previous speech, he linked the killings to members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Many groups, particularly human rights organizations, expressed fear that the increased presence of more soldiers and cops  in the region would lead to even more violence.

PCC-BCS said that these fears were not unfounded.

“The deployment of additional troops complicated the already worsening human rights situation in the areas,” the group said. “It further militarized an already highly militarized area causing fear and panic among the populace.” 

Brazen disregard to life

Negros has seen a spate of violence and killings over the past months, with at least 21 people killed from July 18 to 27 alone, including a lawyer, local government officials, and a one-year-old boy. (READ: Death comes unprovoked upon Negros Island)

The latest victim was 24-year-old Cristal Jastiva who was killed by two riding-in-tandem gunmen  just a few meters from the Bacolod City Police Office on Sunday, August 18. The incident is the third killing in Negros Occidental in 3 days. 

Calling for an end to the violence, the PCC-BCS said the killings show a “brazen disregard of the sanctity of life in our nation.”

“They testify to the dismal failure of the Government to respect and protect human rights and its “blatant policy to attack anyone who speaks the truth and helps people strive for justice,” it said.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Negros who are living in fear because of the senseless killings and violence being perpetrated against them,” PCC-BCS added. – 

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.