A Catholic bishop on Sunday lamented the slaughter of four members of a peasant family in the central Philippine province of Negros Occidental.
“I implore local and national government institutions to ensure justice for the Fausto family and hold accountable those responsible for this heinous act,” said Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos.
Based on a report released by the rights group September 21 Movement, peasant woman Emelda Fausto, 50, and her two children Ben, 15, and Raben, 12, were killed while they were sleeping inside their hut in Buenavista village, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on June 14.
Emelda’s husband, farmer Rolly Fausto, 55, was found dead in a sugarcane field near their home. The family members belonged to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church.
The “brutal massacre” was allegedly perpetuated by elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, according to the rights group.
Bishop Alminaza said his diocese “mourns” the death of the farmers and expressed “grieve for the absence of peace” in the province.
“Our hearts are heavy as we witness the escalating militarization under the current administration, further reinforcing the Executive Order (E.O.) 70 implemented during the Duterte regime,” said the prelate.
Authorities claimed that the E.O. 70 of former president Rodrigo Duterte, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), aims to address the root causes of insurgency to end local armed conflict in the countryside.
Bishop Alminaza said the “whole-of-nation approach,” which he said is advocated by the NTF-ELCAC, “has led to the weaponization of ‘red-tagging’, armed harassment, and senseless killings.”
The prelate offered a prayer “as a plea for justice”. He urged faithful to “stand with me in the fight against injustice and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace across all sectors.”
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported that before the killings, the Fausto family “endured a string of red tagging, physical and mental torture, grave coercion, and illegal searches perpetrated by state forces”.
According to the group, witnesses narrated that on the night of the massacre, the Fausto family’s hut was ransacked by soldiers “accusing them of being supporters of the communist-led New People’s Army”.
“This barbaric massacre of the Fausto family is not an isolated incident. Under the Duterte administration, Negros Island became a laboratory of state fascism, the led to the extrajudicial killing of more than a hundred individuals, mostly farmers and activists, including Atty. Ben Ramos and human rights activist Zara Alvarez,” said Danilo Tabura of KMP.
Tabura said that in the past years, “several peasant massacres also happened in Negros in the past years” – Guihulngan 6 Massacre (2017), Sagay Massacre (2018), and Negros 14 Massacre (2018).
The four members of the Fausto family have been laid to rest at the Aguisan Public Cemetery on Sunday.
Bishop Alminaza’s prayer as a plea for justice:
God of Peace,
You showed peace in the life of the creatures you created,
Providing us with goodness, beauty,
and peace that defines our existence.
From these images of life,
May we value the peace you created inherently in us.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace
You incarnated the love that is essential to peace,
Teaching peace in the image of the Compassionate Samaritan.
Preaching peace in the Sermon of the Mount.
Help us to embrace peace as a solution to oppression and violence.
Holy Spirit, guide us to achieve integral peace
Motivate our government to institute peace based on justice and compassion
Make our leaders pursue peace for the common good.
Let there be peace among our people,
and where rights are respected.
As we pray for peace,
we also include the victims
of un-peace, of violence,
and of state repression.