The Catholic bishop of Kidapawan in the southern Philippines joined calls for an “impartial investigation” into the killing of nine Muslim farmers in the town of Cabacan on August 29.
“I join the call of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government for an impartial investigation of this atrocity,” said the prelate in a message on August 31.
“How I wish government authorities will apply all possible ways and means to avert more violent incidents and protect the people as we ask for prayers,” added the prelate.
The killing of the farmers has sparked outrage in Muslim communities after initial investigations revealed that the victims were allegedly executed, and not killed in a shootout.
Authorities earlier said the farmers were killed in a “shootout” between feuding clans, but police later reported that there was no firefight as the victims were allegedly gunned down after they were waylaid by unidentified gunmen.
Sammy Al Mansor, chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), condemned the killing, saying that it was a massacre.
The incident “reminds us of the dark period in our not so recent past, when the Bangsamoro people were besieged and beleaguered in their very own ancestral homeland,” he said.
The BIAF is the armed wing of the then separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a peace deal with the government in 2015.
“We will not tolerate the reemergence of violence and hostilities against unarmed Bangsamoro in their defenseless communities,” Al Mansor said in statement.
Mujiv Hataman, former governor of the Muslim autonomous region, called for a “full-scale, independent and exhaustive investigation into the matter.”
“Again, I call on our law enforcement authorities to get to the bottom of this incident and bring the perpetrators to justice to show our resolve in upholding peace and the law,” he said.
The Commission on Human Rights in the region tagged the incident as a case of “extrajudicial killing.”
Lawyer Erlan Deluvio, regional director of the commission, said the human rights agency will look into the possibility of the involvement of law enforcers in the incident.
He clarified that it does not mean that law enforcers were directly involved in the incident but their inaction could be considered a participation.
Moro leader Zaynab Ampatuan said efforts to build peace in communities are again in peril.
“While peace advocates have exerted so much effort in bringing an atmosphere of peace in the region, some evil forces are taking the lives of innocent people so easily,” he said.