DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Now that Davao City Archbishop Romulo Valles is elected as the new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the CBCP is urged to support Mindanawons as government officials mull the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Magz C. Maglana, one of the convenors of Konsensya Dabaw lauded Valles for being elected as the new head of CBCP.
But beyond her greetings to CBCP, Maglana also asked the church group to help residents in Mindanao and the rest of the country to deal with their fears in the midst of the existing situation, particularly in the declaration of Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
Maglana said long-term efforts to find understanding on the sentiments of the people in Mindanao on Martial Law must not cease.
“While there are those who profess approval for Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao as the manifestation of their support for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, the first to come from our part of the archipelago, fear is likely a major factor behind that approval,” she said.
Residents in Mindanao, she admitted, are also fearful with the number of threats and dangers, that include the real threats of terrorist groups such as the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“It is a fear that has been magnified by our poor understanding of these groups.
Proclamation 216 aims to remove Marawi from its allegiance to the Philippine Government. But aside from the obviously propaganda-oriented video which shows them planning attacks, we have not heard much of their political platform,” Maglana said.
But dealing with the feared threats, she added, “will require new mindsets and ways”, not only on the level of the country’s forces getting better in urban warfare, but also on “developing the ability to prevent and fight back against terrorism without undermining the ideals and institutions we hold dear, the weakening or eradication of which would actually make favorable breeding grounds for more terrorists, of whatever persuasion, in the future.”
“Before our fear of the unknown will lead to pathological clinging to the known, which is really the status quo, and the opposite of the change we have been promised to expect,” she pointed out.
She also expressed hope Catholics in Mindanao who are part of the 19 million of the island’s population will find guidance in the critical and prophetic voice of church leaders.
“We have not forgotten, and it is something we value, that among the first to have spoken out against the abuses of Marcos’s Martial Law was Davao Archbishop Antonio Mabutas who issued the statement on the “Reign of Terror in the Countryside” in 1978 condemning the killings of church workers in Davao City,” Maglana said.
Mindanawons, she added, are now looking eagerly to Archbishop Valles and the rest of the CBCP “for inspiration that would help us overcome what Pope Francis referred to as faintheartedness, ‘the sin against memory, courage, patience, and hope.’ ”
Maglana also decried the displacement of 2000 indigenous peoples (mostly Manobos) in Lianga, Surigao del Sur who were forced to abandon their abodes and communities due to military movements and the presence of paramilitary forces.
“These are the same communities who were traumatized by the Martial Law years of Marcos, and the brutal killing on September 1, 2015 of their leaders and a school administrator which triggered their evacuation. They had just returned to their farms and villages after more than a year of staying in an evacuation center in Tandag, and again they are experiencing displacement,” she said.
She also carped on the recent holding and questioning of four farmer leaders and a human rights advocate in a military checkpoint here for being suspicious.
“A long-dismissed charge of qualified theft against one of them was also used as an excuse. This has a chilling effect on civil society groups in the region, particularly since the four had no connections at all to the reason why Martial Law was declared,” Maglana said.
“By the narrative that every locality is vulnerable to terrorists who are now considered rebels, Martial Law is tragically fanning the flames of fear in Mindanao. The legality of its proclamation has been upheld by the Supreme Court, true. But it does not mean that it needs to be in place until July 22, much more continue beyond that,” she added.
Fear, Maglana said, is not a good foundation for getting Mindanao – it being a debilitating factor that could undermine real change.
“Heightened fear will make us mistake paranoia for vigilance; compliance can easily slide down the slope of blind obedience; excessive worrying about the safety of our immediate circles may numb us to the plight of others,” she said.
Valles, 66, was elected during the 115th CBCP Plenary Assembly held last July 7, Friday in Manila and will succeed Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas. He will be the 20th president of the organization of Catholic bishops in the country.
Valles was ordained as a priest in 1976. In 1997, Rome appointed him as bishop of the Diocese of Kidapawan in 1997. He was named as Archbishop of Zamboanga Archdiocese in 2006 and in 2012 as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Davao.
Valles will lead the CBCP within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte who also served as mayor of Davao City for years.
The President and Valles are known to have a good relationship, a situation which is in contrast to that of outgoing CPCB head Archbishop Villegas.
It can be recalled that President Duterte, who was then campaigning for president, has coursed through his “official” apologies to Pope Francis over a controversial remark he (Duterte) uttered against the Pontiff during one of the campaigns.
Rome also channeled its official answer to Duterte through Valles. (davaotoday.com)