In a Joint-Pastoral Letter that was issued last January 15, 2021 and was read in all the churches in Western Visayas last January 24,2021, the Bishops of Western Visayas have expressed their condemnation “in the strongest possible term, all the killings”. The document, especially refers “to the killings of our brothers – the Tumandoks” last December 30, 2020 involving “the death of nine people” in the areas of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo.
According to the joint-statement, the Bishops of Western Visayas demand that “a thorough investigation by an independent body” be done on the incident. The Bishops also indicated that uniformed personnel should “conscientiously” follow the ethical standards in the rules of engagement and that “police officers be required to use body cameras in all police operations.”
“We call on everyone to be highly vigilant in defending the sacredness of life and in respecting and protecting the rights of all”, the Joint-Pastoral Statement noted.
For his part, Bishop Patricio A. Buzon, SDB, D.D. issued Circular Letter No. 2021-002 instructing the reading of the ‘abridged version’ of the Joint-Statement in all anticipated (January 23) and Sunday Masses (January 24) in all the parishes and chaplaincies of the Diocese of Bacolod.
“As your Bishop, I express my deep concern for the continued killings that are happening in our region, notwithstanding those cases involving a number of areas in Negros”, Bishop Buzon said.
According to the Bishop, “In this turbulent time, I reiterate our Diocesan stance of condemning all killings, regardless of their perpetrators – whether they be state or non-state forces – for in the very words of Our Lord himself, “those who wield the sword, shall die with the sword.” Moreover, we believe ultimately that peace in our communities can only be achieved when God’s plan for the human person is made possible – that is, when human dignity is promoted and respected and that the welfare of the people is upheld, through provisions for basic services and access to development opportunities.”
Those killed in the incident included former or current village officials and leaders of the group Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sang Duta kag Kabuhi (Tumanduk). Tumanduk is “an alliance of 17 indigenous people’s (IP) communities” which is “strongly opposing the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam”, the Joint-Pastoral Letter noted.