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Bishop laments Church silence over Negros killings

MANILA (UCAN): Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, condemned what he described as the silence of Catholics, especially priests and bishops, regarding an upsurge in targeted killings in recent weeks (Sunday Examiner, August 4; August 11).
 
He said Church leaders “except for some bishops and religious whose flocks were directly affected” have been silent and warned that by keeping one’s silence “we side with the aggressors (and) we give them the liberty to continue their assaults and lies.”
 
The bishop said, “(Because) we allow them the liberty to do wrong once, they would not hesitate to do it again to another, and then to another.” Bishop Pabillo made his remarks on August 12 in a statement calling for an independent investigation into the wave of violence on the central Philippine island of Negros.
 
He said the investigation cannot be simply left to the authorities, especially as soldiers and policemen have been implicated in the killings.
 
At least 15 people were killed by gunmen in the province of Negros Oriental in July, following the death of four policemen in an ambush.
 
On March 30, at least 14 others were killed in what authorities described as an armed encounter with security forces.
 
“A bloodbath is now happening in Negros. This cannot go on. The killings must stop,” Bishop Pabillo said.
 
Human rights groups have reported at least 87 killings of unarmed civilians in Negros since the government intensified its anti-insurgency campaign in 2017.
 
Bishop Pabillo said that even in the government’s war against narcotics, lives could have been spared if only people did not keep silent.
 
“If from the beginning the denunciations had come from all quarters since injustice in some areas is an injustice to all, many lives could have been spared,” the bishop said.
Human rights groups claim that more than 20,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed in the war on drugs of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte.
 
Regarding Negros, Bishop Pabillo noted that there were “outcries from the four Catholic bishops and other bishops from other Christian denominations in Negros to stop this endless shedding of blood.”
 
He then asked, “Why are bishops of other dioceses silent? Do we have to wait for the killings to spread to other dioceses?”
 
He also lamented the silence of the public over attacks on perceived critics of the government, including several Catholic bishops and priests, charged with sedition (Sunday Examiner, July 28; August 11).
 
“We all know that the accusation is without basis. We all know that it is legal harassment. We all know that it is a ploy to frighten critics of the government,” Bishop Pabillo said.
 
“Why the silence of other Church leaders, the academe and the lay faithful in general. Do we have to wait till the same harassment comes to us?” he asked.
 
“Silence is not an option. We have to speak—and now! Defend the innocent. Denounce the aggression. Call the accusations for what they are—lies!” he declared. 
 

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