MANILA, Feb. 5, 2015—A high-ranking church official on Friday said genuine peace in the south can only be attained if justice will be served to the 44 police officers who died in a gruesome clash with secessionist groups last Jan. 25.
“I agree with the president that this should not lead us to stop the peace talks. More than anything, this tragedy in Maguindanao should convince us that peace is a much needed grace for Mindanao,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in an interview with news website Rappler.
“And we should not stop talking peace, but there can be no peace without justice,” added Villegas, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Full force of law
Noting that justice must be given to those who were killed, Villegas said those who are responsible for the gruesome carnage in Mamasapano must be placed before the courts of justice and be punished with the full force of law.
“Justice must be served. Because if we just ignore the situation for the sake of peace, I think it is ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’, very much like the monkeys,” he said.
“So the peace process must not stop, but at the same time, we must not forget the demands of justice, the demands of truth, because what really happened should be put forward and everybody should know what really happened,” he added.
Act of violence
In a statement released earlier, the CBCP condemned the Mamasapano carnage, noting that the incident further underscores the need for peaceful negotiations between government and separatist parties.
“While the CBCP vehemently condemns this act of violence against human life no matter what avowed purpose of such violence may be, we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks,” the bishops said in a statement issued by Villegas.
Amid calls to stop the ongoing negotiations between the government and the MILF, the CBCP remained supportive of the peace talks, noting that the Mamasapano tragedy “underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled and just to all.”
According to earlier reports, the PNP-SAF operation was launched to serve outstanding warrants of arrest against Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir (also known as Commander Marwan) and Abu Sayyaf leader Abdul Bassit Usman.
The CBCP also condoled with the families of police officers who died in the tragedy.
“With profound sorrow but with faith in the Resurrection, the CBCP mourns with the families of the gallant policemen, victims of an utterly senseless act of violence in Mindanao, already weary from battle and conflict,” the bishops said.
“Let the grieving families find comfort in the Lord’s promise that none who have been given him will be lost,” they added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza/CBCP News)