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Letter of Concern from
The Roman Catholic Bicol Bishops regarding the Endless Extra-Judicial Killings in Bicol

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Life and dignity of every citizen must be upheld, defended and promoted by a civilized, God-fearing and democratic country.  This is the very foundation that every faith and institution stood for – LIFE and DIGNITY.

We, the member-Bishops of the Roman Catholic Bicol Bishop’s Conference are deeply alarmed by the endless extra-judicial killings in the entire Bicol Region.  Countless civilians and members of militant organizations become victims of these motorcycle-hooded murderous assassins that kill with impunity.  Orphans and widows in our dioceses grow in numbers day by day.  The trauma and scars of loss of every Christian family will never heal, rather will further be aggravated by the seemingly impregnabable wall of inaction from the authorities and agencies.

Let it not be forgotten that these people cried out loud to the high heavens that even Non-Christian countries heeded and demanded that these vicious extra-judicial killings must end.  International instrumentalities, countries and groups such as United Nations (UN), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), European Union (EU), Asian Human Rights Committee (AHRC), US Congress and Senate, and World Council of Churches (WCC) have emphatically called for the respect of life, stop the extra-judicial killings and justice for the victims.  No less that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Prof. Alston himself stated in his report that “extra-judicial killings in the Philippines is a sad reality.  It is an affront to human rights and it is being continuously commited with even greater impunity.”

It must be recalled that Bicol Region has been tagged as one of the priority areas of the “total-war counter-insurgency plan” of the national government.  It is lamentable that “more firepower and militarist approach” has been chosen to resolve civil strife that torn this country.  But history proves that it has never yielded victory rather more death to civilians and destruction of livelihood.  To date, there are 138 victims of extra-judicial killings in the entire Bicol Region, with Sorsogon topping region with ___ victims.  

Thus, we the member-Bishops of the Roman Catholic Bicol Bishop’s Conference condemn the endless extra-judicial killings in the Bicol Region.  

We stand firm on the teachings of the church that “life must never be violated for it is an inalienable right given to man by God.”  Plurality of ideological persuassions is a sign of the diverse charater of our society, thus all people must be accorded his or her basic inalienable human rights.  

Not that the Church claims to know all the solutions to society’s ills. Rather, in situations of tyranny where human existence and survival are not only under threat but also under assault, the Church must stand her ground, uncompromising and courageous in exposing the evil designs wherever they comes from.

We further reiterate the Statement of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last May 31, 2006 that “it is not right that people be killed simply because they have different ‘political beliefs’ or are suspected of being ‘subversives’ or plotting against the government”.  

Seen and understood in the foregoing terms, the defense and promotion of human rights takes center stage in the apostolate in the Bicol Region. Where the imago dei in persons is tarnished or violated, the Church has vehemently raised her voice of condemnation. It is for this reason that the Bicol Bishops in the region has found common cause in the unequivocal resistance to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, harassments and other forms of political persecution under the watch of President Gloria M. Arroyo.

In one voice and in collegiality with other Brother-Bishops, we call for:
1. Stop the extra-judicial killings in the region;
2. Implement Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL);
3. Cease and review the implementation of the Oplan Bantay Laya I & II;
4. Bring to justice the perpetrators and the officers-in-charge by virtue of command responsibility;
5. Surface the desaparicidos; and
6. Resume the Peace Negotiations between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).