COTABATO City — Catholic bishops in Mindanao have expressed no opposition to the martial law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte but urged the public to be vigilant.
In a statement issued Friday by His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, DD, archbishop of Cotabato “with the approval of bishops of Mindanao”, the bishops emphasized that “martial law must be temporary”.
“We have many fears. But at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of martial law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that martial law must be temporary,” Quevedo said.
Mindanao has at least 21 bishops in five archdioceses, 14 dioceses, vicariate and a prelature spread in 27 provinces and 33 cities.
Quevedo said martial law “is a means of last resort”. Among the questions raised by the people of Mindanao, he said, are the following:
“Are moral principles fulfilled? Were other means to resolve the deep and wide serious problems of Mindanao impractical and ineffective? Will the positive effects of martial law outweigh the negative effects? Will there be probability of success? Will it bring about a culture of accountability and end a culture of impunity? Will martial law increase human rights violations? Will martial law be abused for evil purposes?”
The country’s second cardinal said the bishops “shall condemn any abuse of martial law and as in the past, will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil”, urging the public to remain vigilant.
“We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of martial law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction. We urge the government to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good,” he said.
Quevedo and the Mindanao bishops further “condemn the terrorist acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives, the burning of homes, public buildings, including a Protestant school dormitory and a Catholic Cathedral”.
“We condemn the unconscionable kidnapping of teachers and church personnel,” he added.
Offering prayers for the safety of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob and his companions, Cardinal Quevedo and the prelate “appeal to the hostage takers to release all of them unharmed. The victims fear death but they also have the courage to give ultimate witness to Christ.”
The fate of Fr. Suganob and his 14 companions, an MSU professor and seven teachers and staff of the Church-run Dansalan College, remain unknown as of posting.
Marawi City Bishop Edwin dela Peña said there were reports the priest has been released but these were false news.
He said the bishops condemn in strongest terms terrorism in its various forms, describing it as “an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace”.
“Especially so when terrorism is perpetrated while our Muslim brothers and sisters are preparing for the holy month of Ramadan. Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility,” Quevedo added.
Aware of the problem of peace and order and of continuing disruptive activities of other rebel groups, the problems of criminality and drugs, corruption and underdevelopment, the cardinal said, “Mindanao problems go beyond the limits of Marawi City.”
In issuing pastoral guidance regarding martial law, Quevedo said the bishops are guided by the Sacred Scriptures and by the social teachings of the Church. St. Paul, he said, exhorts us to “pursue what leads to peace” (Rom. 14: 19).
He then asked Mindanaons, “Let us pursue together what leads to peace. Let all religious teachers and leaders quell the tendencies towards the terrorist ideology. Let us pray for peace and work for peace. God bless the people of Marawi.” (EOF/PNA)
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