Justice to the weak

THE people of Basilan would like to thank Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF for helping assuage the grief –and now the anger—of the people of Basilan.

Fr. Calvo is the lead convenor of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) that has strong partnerships with Muslim leaders in advocating and building peace in Mindanao.

He is also the Vice Chairman of the Mindanao Peace Institute (MPI), Asia’s premier peace resource center based in Davao City, that brought together last summer 115 participants for the 12th Annual Peacebuilding Training, coming from as far as Nigeria and Sierra Leone in Africa, Spain and Germany in Europe, United States and Canada in North America, Afghanistan and Pakistan in South-Central Asia and Japan and Laos in Asia.

It was during one of  MPI/PAZ’s peace forums in Davao City last summer that I was able to reestablish ties with Fr. Calvo who about four decades ago was our parish priest in U.P. Sta. Clara, Basilan Province, an agrarian community similar to the Tumahubong community where plantation workers were killed this morning.

This morning’s killings was a déjà vu of some sorts for me. In the early 1970s, our own plantation workers and members of our security force also became victims of landmines and ambushes.

At one point back then, in 1977, if I am not mistaken, I could remember looking down on the street below our house on a hilltop as truckloads of dead and injured workers piled on top of one another were rushed to hospitals in Lamitan and Isabela after landmines went off as the trucks that were bringing them to work in our rubber plantations were blown apart by landmines.

One of the casualties was my classmate who was then 12 years old, who decided to skip classes for the day to go with his father to the fields to tap rubber trees.

Due to the spate of killings in Basilan, I would like to reprint the following statement of the Claretian Missionaries, entitled “Justice to the Weak,” on the killing of Tumahubong workers last, October 23, 2011:

“Today at 6:00 in the morning a truckload of workers from Tumahubong drove to their death, as unidentified armed men ambushed these defenseless civilians in Barangay Kandiis, Sumisip, Basilan. Six  workers were immediately killed and seven others were critically injured. Among the six killed, three were Catholics, two Christians and a Muslim. These are family men out to do their daily duty to provide for their families by working as tappers in a rubber plantation; family men who earn just enough for daily sustenance caught in this senseless masquerade of arm conflict, political reluctance and economic greed.

As the psalmist’s cry in deep anguish, we, the Claretian Missionaries, cry for justice for these pointless massacre of innocent lives. We condemn fiercely the violence in Basilan now spreading indiscriminately. We vanquish the evil that swallows this paradise in the Philippines. Stop these mindless killings in Basilan.

We bow down with our heads between our knees in prayer for the families of the men whose lives were destroyed by this incident.
May the love of Christ who first suffered for us grant you comfort in this desolate time. We pray to the God of mercy for the souls of the victims, that the doors of heaven be opened wide for them and grant them peace. And may justice be granted swiftly. We pray for the communities in Basilan to hold fast to their faith and be united in this time of pain as we share in your agony.

Let us not allow the grip of evil to overpower us.”

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