“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed.” (Psalm 9.9)
We, the National Priests Organization-South Central Luzon (NPO-SCL), express our tremendous sorrow and indignation over the brutal killing of nine human rights defenders and arrest of six others in a wave of attacks against legitimate people’s organizations across Southern Tagalog on Sunday, March 7.
We strongly denounce the atrocities that advocates of social and economic reforms have suffered at the hands of the military and police as they carried out “anti-communist” raids in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal. We strongly condemn these heartless acts of violence perpetrated by government security forces acting under the baton of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
As pastors, we cannot and will never turn a blind eye to these unjust acts that have deprived our neighbors of their rights to life, liberty and dignity. Too many innocent lives have been lost, and people of good will arrested and detained for protesting against social injustice and inequality. Too many voices demanding accountability for the culture of murder and impunity in the country are not being heard.
We demand that President Rodrigo Duterte’s government refrain from criminalizing, vilifying and red-tagging human rights defense, peacemaking, social change advocacy, and activism with marginalized communities and underprivileged groups. We also ask our fellow pastors and lay people to minister to the families and communities impacted by these acts of violence by reaching out and sharing their resources to them, especially in these moments of loss, sorrow and pain.
We sincerely pray for the countless lives brutally ended and for the precious liberty viciously robbed by state oppression. We continue to pledge our support for the victims, their families and communities. We stand with them in holding perpetrators accountable, and in defending our basic freedoms. We pledge to remain steadfast in cherishing and vigilant in journeying with the poor, deprived and oppressed and uphold their legitimate struggle for human rights, civil liberties and democracy.
May God, who is the stronghold of the oppressed, give hope to those who are persecuted and remember those who were martyred so just peace may flourish in our land. Amen.
NPO SCL Executive Committee
Rev. Cesar Hilario
Rev. Ariel Pameroyan
Rev. Dante Camingawan
Rev. Gina Grande
March 9, 2021