In a letter to President Benigno Aquino III, the bishops urged the government to act against the killings, particularly in Calbayog City which, according to them, has reached at an “alarming” level.
“Mr. President, we seek your immediate assistance to resolve the killings the soonest possible time,” reads part of the letter signed by Bishops Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog, Crispin Varquez of Borongan, and Emmanuel Trance of Catarman.
A year before the national elections, they also called on Aquino to stop the “proliferation of loose firearms” and to “eradicate private armies” who serve as “goons” during polls.
“This is the only way to avert further violence – to serve justice to the perpetrators of these crimes – so that peace may once again prevail in our provinces and to lessen many unsolved impunities until now,” they wrote.
The incidence of “political violence” was among the issues discussed during the assembly of the Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development (SIPPAD) held in Calbayog on Wednesday.
SIPPAD is a partnership of the Church, government, academe, and civil society in the provinces of Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, and Western Samar.
At least two barangay chairmen and a councilor were killed in two separate shooting incidents in Calbayog last week alone.
The bishops said police reports revealed that the gunmen were unmasked, wore no bonnets to hide their faces, and that the fatalities “belonged to opposite camps”.
On May 9, the village chief of Nagppacao in Matuguinao town of Western Samar was also killed by still unidentified attackers.
In December 2014, several village officials were murdered in Calbayog; not a single case has been resolved to this day.
Avarquez earlier appealed to local authorities to help secure justice for the victims and their families.
“We are alarmed that these killings may be the start of a wave of political violence in our province in the island of Samar,” the bishops said.
The prelates added that the provinces are still in the processes of rehabilitating communities following the havoc brought by typhoons Yolanda and Ruby.
“And peace is essential in our development process,” they said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)