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Philippine diocese to ring church bells to protest killings

Series of recent murders in Negros provinvce prompts bishop's call for govt and social action to stop slaughter

Philippine diocese to ring church bells to protest killings

Relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings take part in a protest march in Manila on July 17. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Published: July 26, 2019 05:18 AM GMT

Updated: July 26, 2019 05:25 AM GMT

A Catholic bishop in the central Philippines has ordered the simultaneous ringing of church bells at eight o'clock every evening to protest a series of killings in his diocese.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos made the exhortation following the killing of several people in the province of Negros Oriental on July 24.

"In anger and in a call for justice, in a spirit of communion and in a collective prayer, we exhort our parishes, mission stations and religious houses to ring our church bells ... until the killings stop," he said.

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"Let the tolling of bells remind us that these senseless killings are inhumane," added the bishop.

The killings occurred a day after Bishop Alminaza issued a pastoral letter condemning the death of human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad who was shot and killed on July 23.

Bishop Alminaza described the killings as "manifestations of a total absence of peace and order."

"Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths," he said.

Hours after the bishop made the call, a father and his child were shot dead in the town of St. Catalina, bringing the death toll to seven in one day.

Local authorities reported that the man, Marlon Ocampo, and his child were shot dead about eight o'clock in the evening. Ocampo’s wife was wounded.

Earlier in the day, siblings Arthur and Ardale Bayawa and Romeo Alipan were shot dead in the city of Guihulngan.

Reden Eleuterio was also killed by unidentified gunmen in Ayungon town while Raklin Astorias was shot dead in the town of Siaton.

In his "Exhortation to the Government to Act on Ending the Killings," Bishop Alminaza challenged local authorities "to break their silence" on the killings.

"Please speak up! Let not your silence add to the growing number of killings," he said.

"Let not your silence embolden the criminals more. Be bold and join us in the cry to end the senseless killings!" the prelate added.

He called on police and the military to protect the people, promote peace, and not instil fear."

In an earlier statement, the prelate called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels to put an end to the violence.

He has also called for a meeting of clergy and lay leaders to discuss how they could help stop the killings.

Since 2017, at least 76 people, mostly farmers, lawyers, and human rights workers have been killed in Negros province.

Mark Saludes and Raymund Villanueva contributed to this report.


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