A Public Statement: Isabela Peace Conference on Extra-Judicial Killings

"Pepe Manegdeg III, Fr. William Tadena, Raul Y. Domingo, Abel Ladera, Marcelino Beltran, Ricardo Ramos, Ernesto Ladica, Alberto Gonzales, Mario Florendo, Rei Mon Guran, Elena Mediola, Ricardo Balauag, Madonna Castillo, Prudencio Melendres, Alice Omengan Claver. They are among, as of today, 720 Filipinos, including 115 Bayan Muna members, and five Isabelinos, fallen victims of extrajudicial killings since Mrs. Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

"Clergymen, rural missionaries, labor leaders, peasant organizers, student activists, members of Party list groups -- they all were once peace and human rights advocates wont to denounce structural evils in society and open eyes to the feasibility of a social order of justice and peace and prosperity for all.

"These victims had not engaged in illegal activities; they were not members of the New People’s Army. Rather, they were citizens but unprotected by the Arroyo government sworn to protect the people regardless of race, gender, religion and political persuasion Instead they were left as prey to executioners deployed by masterminds vested with big political, economic and military power to exploit and oppress the people. Are there to be no critics of forms of rule in society?

"We share the opinion of the Bishop of the Diocese of Ilagan, the Most Rev. Sergio L. Utleg, that “the killings are the work of a group working together, not done by individuals acting along. The murders are meant to frighten or eliminate ‘leftist activists’. The killers have access to firearms, are mobile and efficient in killing. The killers are never caught, and so they must have connection with people in authority; or are they the people in authority themselves.” (Pastoral Letter, August 6, 2006)

"The killings, not random but of a pattern, have caught international attention of Church and civil society groups. A fact-finding group, the International Peasant Solidarity Mission IPSM) has concluded that “the military, including Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, was involved in most of the political killings”. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 9, 2006) The IPSM with 68 delegates from the United States, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan and Nepal confirms public suspicion. If this be so, then the prophet Isaiah (59:3-4) addresses the murderers in no uncertain terms: “. . . . your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.”

"It is right and salvific that today, August 12, 2006, we the delegates to the Isabela Peace Conference on Extra-Judicial Killings, coming from the ecumenical Church and civil society, after prayerful discernment of issues, strongly condemn extra-judicial killings. We denounce the perpetrators even as we pray for their conversion and join forces to bring them to justice. Exodus 23:7 commands all: “Do not slay the innocent and the righteous.” This law “obliges each and all, always and everywhere.”

"Mrs. Arroyo, Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palaparan and the rightist-extremist Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) and their ilk know the victims of Oplan Bantay Laya as mere statistics, destablizers of the regime, collateral damage. But our people know and honor them as martyrs and heroes.

"In their name, and in the name of all of good will, we call on:

  • All the people of Isabela to use all ways and means to end extra-judicial killings;
  • The Government to bring immediately the assassins and masterminds to justice, and indemnify the victims and their families;
  • Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to void the fascist Oplan Bantay Laya, and redirect her one billion peso anti-insurgency fund to economic development and social services;
  • Governor Grace Padaca and the Provincial, Municipal and Barangay offiicials to assert civilian rule over the military;
  • The Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to resume peace talks and resolve the root causes of poverty and social unrest;
  • The ecumenical Church to lead the people in prayer that God’s will be done “that justice roll down like a river and peace like an everlasting stream.” (Amos 5:21).

Issued this day, August 12, 2006
St. Ferdinand Cathedral Conference Hall
Upi, Gamu, Isabela

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