MANILA, March 9, 2013—“Save our people with honor.”
The Mindanao bishops aired a collective appeal on the government to do its utmost to save the lives of Filipinos caught in the ongoing violence in Sabah.
They said government leaders, more than just merely telling Filipinos to get out of Sabah, should do more “for the sake of life and peace.”
The bishops urged the Aquino government “to support the appeal of the United Nations for an immediate end of the violence in Sabah and to press upon the two contending forces to heed the UN call.”
They also called on the government to “resume the diplomatic work of resolving the propriety and the sovereignty question, a task historically entrusted to the government by the Sultanate of Sulu; and to ensure the withdrawal with honor of armed forces from the area.”
Malaysian forces and armed followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been locked in a standoff since last month that left at least 61 people dead.
The bishops said that even if the government may not agree with the methods used by the Sultan’s family in laying their claim on Sabah, “the fact is: Filipino lives have been lost.”
“Even now Filipino lives are at stake. They were lost because they believed they have a right to reclaim a naturally rich territory for which they are being paid a measly sum every year. We cannot simply let them sacrifice more lives for that cause,” they furthered.
The prelates are counting on government leaders from both sides to “demonstrate wisdom and statesmanship in preventing further bloodshed and resolving the basic issues that resulted in tragedy.”
“We pray for all the casualties, both Filipino and Malaysian, in the conflict. We pray for their grieving families,” the bishops added.
The appeal was signed by Bp. Guillermo Afable (Digos), Bp. Colin Bagaforo (Cotabato), Bp. Antonieto Cabajog (Surigao), Bp. Jose Cabantan (Malaybalay), Bp. Edwin de la Peña (Marawi), Bp. Elenito Galido (Iligan), Bp. Dinualdo Gutierrez (Marbel), Bp. Martin Jumoad (Isabela), Bp. Angelito Lampon, OMI (Jolo), Abp. Antonio Ledesma, SJ (Cagayan de Oro), Msgr. Cris Manongas (Zamboanga), Abp. Orlando Quevedo, OMI (Cotabato), Bp. Julius Tonel (Ipil), Bp. George Rimando (Davao), Abp. Romulo Valles (Davao) and others. (CBCPNews)