Statement of the Mindanao Bishops on the Extension of Martial Law in the Context of the Current Situation in Mindanao
To All People of Good Will:
Soon we celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus, the Prince of Peace. To announce his birth angels sang to shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem: “Peace on earth to all on whom God’s favor rests!’ (see Lk. 2:4)
In the light of the peace that Christmas promises, we as religious leaders desire to provide moral and practical pastoral guidance to our people and to those in responsible positions.
We have listened, and continue to listen, to our people. As a result, we direct our attention to the following concerns: Martial Law in Mindanao, violent extremism, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the cessation of peace talks, and the drug war.
- We are aware that the great majority of our local communities favor the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year. We know that violent extremists continue to perpetrate crimes of violence against fundamental human rights to life, property, and religious freedom. They continue to recruit members from disillusioned youth in various parts of Mindanao.
- We, therefore, ask our public officials as well as our own local communities to undertake the more arduous task of waging peace. This means addressing the root causes of unrest. Poverty is the mother of war. Along with poverty are other causes of unrest such as landlessness and inadequate implementation of agrarian reform, the continued destruction of our environment by irresponsible mining and logging operations, the continued practice of contractualization of labor, the marginalization of indigenous peoples and their displacements from their ancestral domains caused by the arm fighting between the military and the NPA forces, and corruption in government offices.
- We urge religious leaders of all denominations to form the consciences of their respective constituents regarding the blasphemous evil of using God’s name and one’s religious beliefs to kill innocent people and despise other religious beliefs. We recommend effective dialogue with rebels towards peace.
- We pay tribute to the gallantry of our armed forces, particularly the fallen heroes of Marawi, who have sacrificed so much to defend the peace in Mindanao. We need to go beyond Marawi and Mamasapano so as to address the legitimate grievances of the Muslim community.
- Our government has to push without undue delay the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in Malacañang in March 2014. Urgent efforts must be expended towards the re-building of Marawi with the consultation and full participation of the people of Marawi.
- We also acknowledge the efforts of many upright men and women in uniform who have striven to check the widespread malaise of drug addiction throughout the country. We challenge these same peace-keeping personnel to be the first ones to check summary killings as their primary duty and to uphold the human rights of every Filipino. As attested to in many parts of the country, the war on drugs can be won by vigorous police and community vigilance without resort to summary killings. We also cite the many positive efforts of local church communities together with other government agencies and civil society organizations in providing fruitful rehabilitation programs for drug users.
May the Prince of Peace and the intercession of his Blessed Mother accompany us in our concerted efforts to build a nation where “peace and justice meet, truth and charity kiss.” (Psalm 85)
With the approval of the Bishops of Mindanao,
+ ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
21 December 2017