Negros Occidental

Bishop calls for church bells to toll nightly for peace across Negros Island

Erwin Delilan

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Bishop calls for church bells to toll nightly for peace across Negros Island

BISHOP. San Carlos, Negros Occidental Bishop Gerardo Alminaza.

Gerry Alminaza's Facebook page

The pastoral letter comes in the wake of killings and another encounter between soldiers and rebels in Kabankalan City

BACOLOD, Philippines –  San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza issued a pastoral letter on Sunday, May 12, calling for the ringing of Catholic church bells across Negros Island at 8 pm every night as a form of a solemn prayer to address armed conflict and unrest on the island.

The pastoral letter came in the wake of a spate of civilian killings and the May 6 encounter between Army soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Tagok, Barangay Carol-an, Kabankalan City, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate to safer grounds.

Alminaza’s pastoral letter, “Embracing our Christian duty to work for integral peace,” was read during Masses in all Catholic churches under the Diocese of San Carlos in time for the celebration of the Feast of Ascension of the Lord. It was an appeal to all Negrenses to act now to foster peace amid unrest on Negros Island.

The Diocese of San Carlos, one of the four dioceses on Negros Island, includes the northern towns and cities in the twin provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental.

Alarmed by the escalating armed conflict, Alminaza encouraged Catholic churches in Negros to engage in various peace-building activities such as dialogues within parishes and community groups to address local tensions.

In February, Alminaza criticized the military for launching an airstrike against a small group of NPA rebels in Escalante City, denouncing it as a “disproportionate act.” He urged an end to militarization in the province’s communities.

He has also demanded an investigation into the deaths of five purported noncombatant rebels, as well as a tricycle driver in Kabankalan City in September 2023.

Colonel Rainerio de Chavez, Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) director, hailed Alminaza’s pastoral letter, saying it showed that the bishop wanted to put an end to the armed conflict between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

“May the good bishop also pray for the souls of those who were killed by the [NPA], and their families whom they left behind, and for the victims of harassment, displaced families, and minors who were recruited and swayed by the empty promises [of the NPA] and were used in their illegal activities,” he said.

On May 9, the NPA through its Leonardo Panaligan Command (LPC), admitted killing seven civilians whom they tagged as government “spies.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippine Army, and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the province announced separate investigations into the series of killings.

The NPA also claimed responsibility for the killing of another civilian in La Castellana town on May 9.

NPA spokesman Ka JB Regalado said rebels killed 38-year-old Arman Binalo-ac of Sitio Naube, Barangay Puso, La Castellana, who was found guilty by a revolutionary court for allegedly raping his daughter and attempting to sexually abuse two of his relatives in the late 1990s.

La Castellana Police Station chief, Major Sherwin Fernandez, confirmed that Binalo-ac, a person with disability (PWD), was killed in his house.

Fernandez said authorities will pursue the investigation into the killing despite the NPA owning responsibility for it.

“We will not stop until we identify the people behind the killing of Binalo-ac,” he said.

As to the allegations that Binalo-ac had been linked to rape and attempted rape, Fernandez said investigators were checking their records. –

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