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CBCP head on Maguindanao tragedy: No justice, no peace

MANILA, Philippines – Saying peace should come with justice, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the prosecution of those responsible for the clash between government forces and Muslim rebels in Mindanao.

CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Rappler on Friday, January 30, he agrees with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III that the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, “should not lead us to stop the peace talks.” The “tragedy” on Sunday, January 25, “should convince us that peace is a much-needed grace for Mindanao, and we should not stop talking peace.”

“But there can be no peace without justice,” Villegas said. “And justice must be served for those who are responsible for this tragedy.”

“They must be put before the courts of justice, and justice must be served, because if we just ignore the situation for the sake of peace, I think it is 'see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,' very much like the monkeys,” he said.

(Watch part of Villegas' interview with Rappler below)

Villegas made this call as 3 basic questions on the tragedy, according to an analysis piece on Rappler, remain unanswered

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he is waiting for the results of the investigation into the incident. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front – which is implicated in the tragedy even as it is engaged in a peace process with the Philippine government – said it is looking into the bloodbath as well.

Was Aquino's speech sufficient?

In his interview with Rappler, Villegas also said it “remains to be seen” if Aquino's speech on Wednesday, January 28, about the incident is sufficient. (FULL TEXT: Aquino defends SAF operation in Maguindanao)

“As the investigation unfolds, it remains to be seen whether what he said is it, or [if] there is more to it,” he said.

Days before the interview, the CBCP had already released a statement supporting the peace process in Mindanao despite the tragedy that killed 44 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police. 

The peace process aims to end a 4-decade-old secessionist movement in Mindanao, the Philippines' poorest island group.

Echoing the CBCP's call, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo said in a text message, “The demand of wisdom is for us to hold back the natural response of revenge and desire to break off the peace process.” – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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