Filipino bishops call for accountability in killings

United Methodist bishops called for justice and urged all United Methodists to push for an impartial probe into the killing of 44 police commandos who died in a clash with Muslim rebels.

"The inhuman acts against our police commandos are detestable. We can’t accept such deceptive military tactics especially (now) that we are at the negotiating table promoting lasting peace in Mindanao," said Bishop Rodolfo Juan, president of the Philippines College of Bishops. Juan was referring to the talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Funerals for some of the slain officers were held on Feb. 5.

He called for prayers for the police and their families. "Let us ask God to bestow upon them comfort and peace, and to sustain them during these moments of grief, especially the innocent children of our comrades,” he said.

Bishop Pedro M. Torio Jr., episcopal leader of the Baguio area, called for prosecution of those responsible.

“We expect no less than a comprehensive, truthful, no-holds barred investigation that will lead to swift prosecution and conviction of all those who should be held accountable," he said.

"We believe that we should prayerfully, collectively and consistently continue our common struggle as Filipinos for just and lasting peace.  We re-affirm our Biblical teachings that lead us to this Christian priority and purpose."

Oppose extremism and religious prejudice

Bishop Ciriaco Francisco of the Davao episcopal area and the Rev. Israel Painit, chairman of the Philippines Board of Church and Society, issued a joint statement calling for truth and sobriety in a complete investigation.

"We call on the government to assure the public of neither allowing cover-up nor whitewashing this,” he said.

"We also call for general sobriety against extremism and religious prejudice. We stand against prejudice and hatred toward Filipino Muslims in general that were spewed through excessive hate speech and condemn extremism and especially Islamophobia," Francisco said.

Torio expressed his belief that war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. 

“We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy . . . As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, see justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict," he said.

The elite police officers died Jan. 25 in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. 

This week, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives filed a bill calling for the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate the deaths of the police officers.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate committee on peace and reconciliation, said at a news conference about the bill that he expected a credible and independent investigation.

The chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines also joined in the call for a full inquiry.

"We want to know why the ceasefire arrangements with the MILF were not respected and why those with command responsibility were not able to ensure the security of so many of our Philippine National Police who lost their lives,” said the Rev. Ephraim Fajutagana. 

*Mangiduyos is communicator in the Philippines Central Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.

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