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Bishop asks Duterte to stop killings

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

A bishop from Negros asked President Rodrigo Duterte and National Police chief, Debold Sinas, to stop Oplan Sauron and the Synchronized Enhanced Management Police Operations (SEMPO) that started in Negros Island in 2019, and implemented in other areas of the country.

“It is never Christian to kill. We ask our brothers and sisters to pray that the God of Peace reigns, not the Dark Lord, Sauron,” San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, in his open letter to Duterte and Sinas, said.

Alminaza said he recalled with sadness that the “One Time–Big Time” SEMPO under Oplan Sauron by Sinas, then regional police director of Central Visayas, and then PNP chief, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, led to the killings of 20 persons suspected to be members of the New People’s Army in Dec. 2018 and March 2019, in Negros Oriental.

“These operations were carried out mostly during the wee hours, and the farmers were shot under unproven claims that they fought it out – nanlaban”, Alminaza said in his letter.

Whether this is true or not, what is starkly apparent is that this violence has failed to bring lasting peace, and instead bred a culture of even more violence and disrespect for our people, he added.

Alminaza said that a similar pattern of SEMPO was implemented on Dec. 30 in Tapaz, Capiz that claimed the lives of nine Tumandok tribe members and the mass arrest of 17 others, suspected also as NPA members.

“We are alarmed as these recent killings in Capiz demonstrate how Oplan Sauron and Sempo will be implemented throughout the country,” he added.

Under the Duterte administration and Oplan Sauron alone, there are now over 106 cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings recorded in Negros island, Alminaza said.

He claimed that the word “Sauron”, that refers to a fictional character in the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy films, meaning “the abhorred” or “the abominable”, is directed against the perceived enemies of the state.

“However, history and our faith teach us that systematic violence and killings can never lead us to the path of peace,” Alminaza said, and reiterated that only through addressing the roots of the conflict, integral development, and dialog can lasting peace be achieved. The NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command also issued a statement condemning the incident in Capiz and Iloilo, stressing also that the killings of 20 civilians in the Oplan Sauron campaign of the PNP and AFP in Negros Oriental remain unresolved, as of this time.*

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