“From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Psalm 72.14)
As the people of Southern Tagalog reel from the murder of nine civilians in synchronized police and military “anti-communist” raids in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal during the unholy hours of March 7, we are once again confronted with the evils and horrors of violence.
The assault on legitimate dissent, the rampancy of unjust killings, and the brazen impunity and lawlessness — which have all become too familiar under President Rodrigo Duterte’s government — reveals the extent to which violence has become the rule of the day, which has unceasingly targeted those championing the aspiration for a just and peaceful society.
We express our strongest indignation for the relentless persecution and execution of rights defenders and peace advocates previously red-tagged and branded as terrorists by President Duterte’s government and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The blood of all those innocent civilians spilled on the ground are on their hands.
As followers of Christ, we cannot remain silent at the sight of this bloodbath and demand justice for those slain and slaughtered. We condemn state-sponsored violence that desecrates human life and negates human rights. We stand firmly for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of every human person. We cannot betray the Gospel of Christ by feeling and doing nothing against the systemic violence that criminalizes and victimizes those who selflessly labor for a just society.
We, the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference (SCLBC), add our voice to the chorus crying for justice. We urge the faithful and all people of goodwill to pray for the repose of the souls of those who perished and the comfort of their grieving families and friends. Let us work together to achieve justice in this tragedy and continue to challenge the government to respect truth, dignity, justice and peace.
May the Holy Spirit, who is the wellspring of our strength and courage, move us to put an end to the scourge of violence on our land.
The Rt. Rev. Rowel Arevalo
South Central Luzon Bishops Conference
March 12, 2021