“For those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Thursday, November 3, 2011
We, representatives and leaders from Catholic and Protestant churches, faith-based institutions, advocacy groups, academe, health institutions, the youth sector, indigenous peoples, and peasants have come together in response to the KILLING OF FATHER FAUSTO ‘POPS’ TENTORIO, PIME and went to a FACT-FINDING MISSION IN ARAKAN, NORTH COTABATO on October 17, 2011.
The MISSION was the quickest possible response of the Exodus for Justice and Peace, along with peace advocates and human rights defenders, friends and colleagues of Father Pops in an effort to pursue justice while we are in deep grief.
Ours is a time when the people still languish in suffering and oppression. A time when peasants do not own the land they till and indigenous people driven away from their ancestral domains.
It is during these times when people, like Father Pops, who lived with the poor and the landless, and who would eventually stand up with them for more than 30 decades, are targeted and killed.
Father Pops has chosen the missionary’s life he knew would not be easy or would later endanger his life. He knew he would be persecuted. But he knew better, he continued to offer and dedicate his life to the lumads and peasants.
The brutal killing of Father Pops proved that Oplan Bayanihan was far from being a peace and development program, that it was rather just a sugar-coated continuation of the blood-stained counter-insurgency Oplan Bantay Laya 2, that claimed thousands of innocent lives including church people.
Thus, an interfaith, church-initiated and independent FACT-FINDING MISSION to Arakan Valley was carried out. Now, in behalf of those who joined, we now present, the MISSION findings and conclusions:
- That Fr. Fausto Tentorio was shot to death between 7:15 – 7:30 in the morning of October 17, 2011 at the garage area within the compound of Mother of Perpetual Help Parish, Arakan Valley, North Cotabato Province. Witnesses saw the presence of men in military uniform near the crime scene. Fr. Fausto sustained multiple gunshot wounds on the chest area and one fatal shot on the head that caused his instantaneous death. His lifeless body was found beneath the Suzuki gray vehicle by Rosita Nabreda (caretaker) only at around 8:00 am when she was about to throw some garbage.
- That on the night of October 16, some of the staff noticed the incessant barking of dogs within the compound between 8-11pm which was very unusual to them. And also that night they have seen two (2) military vehicles patrolling around the village.
- On October 15, while Fr. Fausto along with Jun Lubiano (head of the parish formation and catechism) passed-by Sitio Kamanugan after serving a funeral mass at Brgy. Dalag, they saw the police confiscated 1 sack filled with long firearms brought by a civilian. But then they only knew that the military owned the firearms when a certain Capt. Espiritu contact the police and ordered not to hold the firearms, thereby claiming its ownership.
- Before Fr. Fausto was killed, church workers observed the presence of unknown fish vendors everyday coming in and out within the parish compound for a period of two months. Likewise, a daycare teacher also noticed a strange man who was always looking for Fr. Fausto and his whereabouts. The man was observed visiting the parish for about six times consecutively every 2:00-3:00pm within the period of January to August this year.
- It should be recalled that on June 12, 2009 about 3:45pm the parish was illegally searched by 9 elements of 57th Infantry Battalion wearing full battle gear as they wrongfully accused Fr. Fausto assisting sick and wounded New People’s Army (NPA) members.
- Fr. Fausto used to sit in the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) of Arakan, but since 2007, the commander of 57th IB requested to pull him out because of the priest’s opposition to combat heavy military operations that has been targeting civilian communities. He was also against the formation of Barangay Defense System (BDS) and military encampments of schools. He was also a staunch advocate for the environment who was helping the community folks in their opposition to the entry of large-scale mining companies and encroachment of agri-industrial plantations in the area.
- The near-death experience of Fr. Fausto on October 6-7, 2003 which he narrated, he was targeted by the paramilitary group called “Bagani” (a group organized by 73rd IB to run after the NPA and groups accused as having links with it) but was able to survive with the help of almost 300 lumads in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
The MISSION believes that Fr. Pops is a VICTIM OF THE REIGNING IMPUNITY. This recent brutal killing exposed the continuing policy of the state on eliminating human rights defenders, peace and justice advocates.
Fr. Pops’ death has further exposed Oplan Bayanihan’s deceptive slogan of ‘peace and development.’ The killing of Fr. Pops is an example of the truth that the military’s peace and development teams are a machinery to protect the interest of the large-scale mining and agri-industrial corporations that cause environmental plunder, economic dislocation and displacement of indigenous peoples and peasants.
Six months ago, the Exodus for Justice and Peace conducted a fact-finding mission on the killings of peasant leader Rudy Dejos and his son in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur and anti-large-scale mining leader Santos “Ricky” Manrique in Pantukan.
The MISSION has also heard the people’s cry in the hinterlands of North Cotabato. Testimonies reveal that 'Peace and Development' Outreach Program (PDOP) under Oplan Bayanihan of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP has nothing to do with genuine peace and real development. They said it is but a grand scheme for pacifying the people's oppositions against government’s supposed development projects.
At this point, the MISSION puts forward the following recommendations:
1. Pursue an independent investigation. Push for and facilitate case build-up, and expedite the prosecution of the perpetrators;
6. Call on the Aquino government to stop the cycle of violence in ancestral domains and rural communities by taking back his approval of the proposal of the AFP on mining firms funding and organizing their own paramilitary units to secure their operations;
We are here in grief and we are also here in faith – that justice must be pursued. Fr. Pops’ missionary life did not end with his death – he died to live with us and share to all of us the life he offered to the poor and the landless.
He knew we will not fall deaf or would close our eyes to the people’s cry and suffering. He knew we will speak out to condemn all that has caused the suffering of people.
Let us then take the challenge, seek JUSTICE FOR FATHER POPS! Let us join the journey, and call on others to take on Fr. Pops’ mission to help the poor and the oppressed encourage them to rise as one in our quest for a just and lasting peace.
Amos 5:24 says “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
JUSTICE FOR FATHER FAUSTO ‘POPS’ TENTORIO, PIME!
Justice for all the Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings!
Justice for all the Victims of Human Rights Violations!
End Impunity Now!
Thursday, November 3, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Monday, September 12, 2011
September 12, 2011
“TO SUFFER THY CHILDREN IS THE WORST CRIME” - Bishop laments killing of child in own home
Davao City --- “Is there no more safe place for children to live? Even in the confines of their own homes, they are threatened, worse, killed! To suffer thy children is among the worst crimes anyone could commit,” lamented Bishop Modesto Villasanta, convener of Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) amidst the current uproar created by the killing of Sunshine Jabinez, a 7-year-old girl from Sitio Biasong, Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley.
Jabinez was laid to rest yesterday. The triggerman, Pfc. ____ Ramos, a member of the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shot Jabinez with a machine gun while going amok last September 2 from across the Jabinez residence.
“Military presence does not provide a good and safe atmosphere for our children and the civilians,” Villasanta said. The bishop urged the government to stop the military’s continued encampment in civilian – populated communities.
“Jabinez’s death sends out a strong message that the path the government and military is taking is not the way to peace. There can be no peace and development if children’s lives are at the risk, at the mercy of the military’s guns,” said Bp. Villasanta.
The bishop added, “The worsening human rights situation of children in our country indicates how far worse the rest of the people are faring at the wake of combat heavy military operations that target even civilian communities, including children’s schools, clinics, gyms and barangay halls. This is not the way to genuine peace!”
Bishop Villasanta is calling for the pursuit of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDFP) in order to address landlessness and poverty as root causes of the social injustice and the armed conflict.
“The GPH and the NDFP have signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) designed to respect human rights and international humanitarian law in the conduct of civil war. In this case, the government is obliged to uphold this agreement and mush assume responsibility over the child’s death caused by Oplan Bayanihan,” Bishop Villasanta said.#
Monday, September 12, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The group was referring to Vanessa delos Reyes, Ariel Haducana, and Jason Casilum whom the AFP is keeping in hospital arrest after being critically wounded in a military encounter on May 29 in Davao Oriental. The Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division has rendered the three as its de facto prisoners of war (POW).
The group expressed this plea citing that in the past they have appealed to the New People’s Army to release its captured AFP officers and soldiers or POWs based on humanitarian grounds.
“Our call is ever more important, now that we are tracking peace talks,” convenor of the group Bishop Modesto Villasanta said. “The release of the three will definitely aid in confidence building for both the government and the NDF in pursuing peace talks,” he said.
“Instead of using peace rhetoric for military operations and insisting that the NPA is a local terrorist, the military must heed the call to support peace negotiations by observing and respecting signed agreements between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF),” Villasanta added.
Among the agreements include the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and other international conventions such as the Geneva Conventions that provide rules on war.
“These agreements provide what is prohibited – such as the use of public places, including schools and barangay gyms, for military operations and provide mechanisms on how to protect persons not (anymore) taking direct part in armed hostilities, for example, relatives, hors de combat and medical professionals among others,” Villasanta said.
“The AFP seems to be ignoring the fact that the Philippine government is in a peace negotiations; they continue to tag NPAs as terrorists and file criminal cases against them. Clearly, this does not help the peace talks!” Bishop Delfin Callao, convenor of the group.
“Lisod man kung sige ingon ang AFP nga for peace sila, but only uses this as cover para ipadayon ang ilang combat operations in the hinterlands of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental,” Callao added.###
Bishops believe release of 3 wounded NPA on humanitarian ground will help peace talks
June 24, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Friday, June 24, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
“We view with concern how the military uses the terms “peace and development” to describe their combat-heavy operations. Six months after these supposedly “peace-driven” activities have started in our country, we have heard the cries of our people. Where is peace then?” said Bishop Delfin Callao, convenor of the group.
Bishop Callao said that an interfaith peace and solidarity mission is currently in Cateel, Davao Oriental to investigate the reported cases of military forces encamped in public places including schools and barangay gyms for military operations.
Quoting reports from human rights workers in the field, the AFP’s 10th ID forces are said to be deployed in towns and civilian communities of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. “We do not see these activities of the military as peace efforts but combat operations, detrimental to solving the roots of armed conflict,” Bishop Callao said.
“While we call on the government of the Philippines to pursue the peace talks by complying with the intent of their Joint Oslo Statement in September 21, 2011 to release political prisoners, we also call on the military to immediately stop the militarization of civilian communities,” Bishop Callao said.
“Under the tenets of the International Humanitarian Law, it is prohibited to use schools and other public places for military purposes,” Bishop Callao added.###
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Thursday, June 2, 2011
EJP echoed calls for the recognition of the international humanitarian law with respect to injured combatants or hors de combat, especially in the context of the upcoming peace talks between the GPH and the NPA’s negotiating arm, the NDFP.
EJP convenor Bishop Modesto Villasanta said, “The state must ensure not only the rights of the three NPA hors de combat to immediate medical attention but after they are treated, they should be released should there be no cases filed against them.” He cited Numbers 1 and 2, Article 4, under Part IV of the GPH-NDF Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
“The family of Vanessa delos Reyes, one of the wounded NPA members, have sought the assistance of the EJP and reported that elements under the 10th Infantry Division are forcing the visitors to sign a logbook. As a guerilla rendered an hors de combat (wounded and incapable of fighting back) Vanessa should now be afforded with the same right as the other patients. She should be in a condition conducive to her early recovery, and hence, she and all those attending to her medication should be free from any threat, intimidation, or whatsoever,” he said.
“With respect to the upcoming peace talks this month, the government must show its sincerity by affording these NPA members rights that are due them,” Bp. Villasanta added.
CARHRIHL provides that:1) Persons hors de combat and those who do not take a direct part in hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, human rights, political convictions and their moral and physical integrity and shall be protected in all circumstances and treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, faith, sex, birth, social standing or any other similar criteria. 2) The wounded and the sick shall be collected and cared for by the party to the armed conflict which has them in its custody or responsibility. ###
June 1, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0
Sunday, May 29, 2011
According to Bishop Modesto Villasanta, convener of Exodus for Justice and Peace, “We are very glad that there are more groups, more movement, advocating for genuine and lasting peace.”
The military personnel were taken by the NPA as its prisoners-of-war (POWs) last April 14 at Sitio Dalinding, Barangay Puas Inda, in President Roxas, Cotabato.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines bishop is referring to the newly-organized For Release Now!, a religious and civil-society movement calling for the safe and immediate release of 57th IB personnels.
“It is our duty as Christians to be peacemakers and as active stakeholders in the peace advocacy. We hope to gain more support for the calls of the release of the POWs,” Villasanta said.
The bishop reiterated appeals made by well-meaning individuals and the families of the two POWs for the military to pull-out its troops in the villages of North Cotabato to give way for the POWs’ immediate and safe release.
“We are calling on the AFP to heed the cries of the families who wish to be reunited with their loved ones,” Bp. Villasanta said.
He added that “(I)t is the government’s duty to provide a conducive ground for negotiations and for the safe release of the POWs.” #
PRESS RELEASE, May 27, 2011. Bishop urges stop in militarization, supports call for release of North Cotabato POWs
Exodus for Justice and Peace - 221-6920
Bishop Modesto Villasanta - 0928-692-0141
Sunday, May 29, 2011 by Exodus for Justice and Peace · 0