As Christians residing in Metro Manila, Luzon, other provinces in Visayas, Mindanao and abroad, the least they can do is to pray for Negros Island. Praying afar for Negros does not necessarily mean that we just pray for “peace and order” as what President Duterte wanted “to end the problem of insurgency” and to stop the struggle of the people in Negros.
The prayer for Negros does not mean that Mindanao and other provinces that have also experienced martial law will be forgotten. The prayer for Negros is a prayer for justice and peace for the people of Negros and throughout the country.
Why Negros? Looking or reading or hearing some information about the situation in Negros, as the people of Negros are suffering the fang of military rule, the people from afar will understand the sufferings of the people in Mindanao, Samar and Bicol. Negros Island is now the show window of the brutal policy of the government’s counter-insurgency.
The Oplan Sauron is a combined police and military operation against the revolutionaries of Negros. This operation does not recognize the law of proper serving of warrant of arrest to the “suspected rebels and supporters”. The combined state forces holding the list of the “suspects” are knocking at the door of the house of the “suspects” and those who questioned why they would be arrested will be executed, tokhang style. The state forces did their operations even in the middle of the night.
It happened in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental in December 2018 where many poor people (mostly peasants and “habal-habal” drivers) had been martyred and illegally arrested. The massacre of farm workers in Sagay, Negros Occidental, the killing of Atty. Benjamin Ramos at recently of Atty Trinidad, and the recent killings in Mangjuyod and Ayungon, Negros Oriental and Kanlaon and Sta. Catalina, Negros Occidental are the initial outcomes of Oplan Sauron. Oplan Sauron is just a local version of Oplan Kapanatagan.
Oplan Kapanatagan is the joint operation of the police and military forces to counter the insurgency and “lawless” elements in the country. The implementation of Memorandum Order 32 escalated the tensions and extra-judicial killings, illegal search, illegal arrest and detention of the so-called leftist organizations.
Though, armed revolutionaries were martyred; most of the victims, though, are leaders and members of legitimate organizations. These organizations are advancing their struggle for land ownership and the promotion of human rights, justice and peace.
The leaders and members of the legitimate organizations, who are fighting even though some of them are red-tagged, velified, harassed, intimidated, imprisoned and even killed, are asserting their rights and launched protest actions against killings, attacks and other injustices.
The revolutionary organizations led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) did not stop also in their struggle. In fact, reports on successful tactical offensives can be also heard and read in the mainstream and social media. They are fighting against their opponents without let up. They had even reported that the revolutionary organs of political power in Negros had been established.
With this situation, Negros is at “civil war”. It is in this condition that the prayers of the Philippine Churches have been offered and heard. The four dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Negros have been tolling their parish churches’ bells to “stop the killings.” Other Churches like the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have joined the call of the people to stop the killings, stop the attacks and justice for the victims of human rights violations.
The prayer for Negros will continue. People and church people from afar are praying for Negros, for the people of Negros who are poor and marginalized, and for the people to experience a genuine, just and lasting peace.
The solution of the “civil war” in Negros is the resumption of the peace talks between the revolutionary forces and government forces. These peace talks will not be possible with the government’s option of “localized peace talks.” The genuine and lasting peace for Negros must be the genuine and lasting peace for the whole country.
Thus, praying for Negros even from afar is calling for the immediate resumption of the peace talks between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. These prayers though are addressed to God must be done by the peace-loving people of this Philippine Islands.