Philippine Church, activists hold national 'day of mourning'

Catholics march in protest against a wave of killings that has gripped the country in recent times
Philippine Church, activists hold national 'day of mourning'

Students from the University of the Philippines walk out of their classes on Aug. 20 to join a "national day of mourning" march to protest against the killing of farmers and human rights activists in recent months. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Rights activists and faith-based groups in the Philippines held a national "day of mourning" Aug. 20 to protest a wave of killings across the country in recent months.

Simultaneous protests were held in the cities of Manila and Cebu, the Bicol region, and in Panay and Negros provinces.

Nardy Sabino of the Promotion of Church People's Response said church people have to raise their voices in condemning violence and threats to life.

"We need to show the government and people who remain silent that Filipinos are willing to take a daring stand for truth, justice and peace," Sabino told ucanews.com.

In a statement, the ecumenical group One Faith, One Nation, One Voice said church people joined the protest to show "indignation over injustices and unpeace" in the country.

The group called on Catholics to "spend a moment of silence, say a prayer, and light a candle for victims of the killings."

Rights group Karapatan says that at least 155 human rights activists and 226 farmers have been killed since 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

They blame the police, soldiers, and paramilitaries for 90 political killings on Negros Island alone since 2017. At least 15 of 21 killings since July 18 this year are being blamed on state forces.

A Global Witness report released on July 29 ranked the Philippines as the worst violator of the rights of environmental and land defenders in 2018.

Various human rights groups have also reported that close to 30,000 people have died in the president's war against narcotics.

"Let us remember them because these people were killed with impunity," said Father Dionito Cabillas of the group Isaiah Ministry.

He said those who died "are not just numbers but have names and families who have been denied justice."

Dr. Marita Wasan, president of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, said the "national day of mourning" aimed to show Catholic indignation at the killings.

"Let us show our unity so that the authorities will hear our voices," she said.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos Diocese in Negros Oriental province welcomed the "expression of solidarity and support" for the people of his province.

"I’m also praying that the killings will stop," he said, adding that attacks on farmers, and even church workers, continue.

In a statement, migrant group Migrante called on Filipinos to "turn our anguish into collective valor and determination to thrash the forces of doom."

"If only our eyes were a fountain of tears, we might weep day and night for the unrelenting slaughter of the most impoverished amongst our people," read the group's statement.

Students at the state-run University of the Philippines walked out of classes to show support for the "national day of mourning."

The students carried banners calling for respect for academic freedom and to protest what they called was "campus militarization." 

Mark Saludes and Marielle Lucenio contributed to this report.

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