MANILA, Philippines – A major group composed of Christian churches expressed fear that the plans of the government to increase the number of law enforcers to address the ongoing violence in Negros Island will make matters worse.
In a statement, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) noted the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in anti-insurgency operations “have failed to adequately ensure that the life and rights of the civilian population are respected.”
“We are afraid that the current massive increase in the deployment of PNP and AFP personnel and even declaring Martial Law will quell the violence in Negros but will rather result in further deaths and more violations of the basic human rights of the people,” the group said.
Negros has seen continuous violence and killings over the past months, with at least 21 people were 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)
NCCP, however, said that what’s clear, based on the situation, is that the victims are “well-known critics of the current government,” which include lawyers, labor leaders, environmental advocates, among others.
The group called for justice and accountability over the killings, adding that the rights of the citizens to speak and organize should be respected amid rampant red-tagging of human rights organizations.
"As a Christian Council, we commit ourselves to stand in solidarity with the victims of murder and harassment in Negros, we stand with them as they cry out for the killings and attacks to stop," NCCP said. "We also commit to amplify their cries for justice so that their voices may be heard far and wide."
NCCP also urged the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines “to resume the peace negotiations to address the substantive issues that continue to divide our people and fan the flames of the armed conflict in our country.” – Rappler.com
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.