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Philippine Church seeks justice, peace on massacre anniversary

A year ago on March 4, a governor and nine others were killed in a brazen attack known as the 'Pamplona Massacre'
Janice Degamo, wife of slain governor Roel Degamo, cries during his funeral in Negros Oriental on March 16, 2023.

Janice Degamo, wife of slain governor Roel Degamo, cries during his funeral in Negros Oriental on March 16, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 06, 2024 12:09 PM GMT
Updated: March 07, 2024 03:45 AM GMT

On the first anniversary of the merciless killing of a governor and nine others in the Philippines, the Catholic Church has decried the delay in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Roel Demago, governor of Negros Oriental in central Visayas region, and nine others were killed in a brazen attack in Pamplona town at an aid distribution event on March 4, 2023. The incident is called the Pamplona Massacre.

Expelled Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr., the alleged mastermind, is reported to be still at large.

“Our dream of integral peace remains elusive,” said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos City in Negros Oriental.

Our call to end violence in “Negros Island has fallen on deaf ears” of the government, the prelate told UCA News on March 6.

Peace cannot be achieved by political means and by using weapons, he observed.

The government has said that it has launched a manhunt to trace nine suspects behind the massacre. On Feb. 28, Interpol issued a Red Notice against Teves Jr. who is reported to be living in Laos.

However, a solution is not “yet in sight,” noted Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, a major town in Negros Oriental.

“Where are we now in our pursuit of justice and peace for our beloved province?” Cortes asked in a statement on March 4.

Pamplona town mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the slain governor, has said that she “will do whatever it takes to honor Degamo’s legacy by bringing lasting peace.”

At a memorial function on March 4, the mayor said, “It pains me that it took his murder to unite our province.”

Bishop Alminaza has decried the growing “gun culture” in the Catholic-majority nation. The prelate wanted stricter laws that did not favor politicians and rich individuals.

Bishop Alminaza said there were 1,940,237 licensed firearms with 296,906 gun owners, and 600,000 unlicensed firearms in the country as stated by a report in 2019.

Private armies are finding more takers due to the "bodyguard system” adopted by politicians and rich individuals for their protection.

Currently, there are more than 118 private armed groups in the country, Alminaza said.

“The amount of armed personnel for every politician is scandalous, while there are large cases of unsolved crimes in several areas,” the bishop said.

He also sought an end to political dynasties in the country.

The current President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the son and namesake of the nation's former dictator, while Vice President Sara Duterte is the daughter of former president Rodrigo Duterte. 

We cannot demand peace “if we ourselves are convinced of fake solutions,” the prelate added.

“A violence-ridden political culture must end in our society. It will never guarantee authentic development for our country,” Alminaza said.

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