“The effect of righteousness will be peace.”
“Blessed are those who work for peace, God will call them His children.”
We, the 1272-member schools, colleges and universities of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), strongly condemn the gruesome and politically-motivated killings of 57 civilians in Maguindanao province in Southern Philippines on November 23, 2009. We are alarmed and appalled by this atrocious and shameless act that victimized not only legitimate participants in an electoral process but also innocent women, passersby, and journalists. This inhuman act, committed in broad daylight, was done with utter disregard for the moral, ethical, and legal precepts on which our free and democratic society is founded. We deplore this dastardly and cowardly act of self-serving individuals who, in violating the most basic principles and values we uphold as a people, ruthlessly abused the power they wielded and trampled upon our moral standards.
Life is sacred, and killings especially of this magnitude and motivation will never be tolerated. Violence is not an option, and we refuse to accept that rido ever warrants such acts. Individuals and authorities who are blinded by a misplaced and bloated sense of entitlement to power have to be reminded of the higher moral ground they are expected to take. This mass murder, perpetrated six months away from the 2010 elections, has showcased the extent corrupt individuals are willing to go in order to arrogate power to themselves.
We demand that our civilian and military authorities apply the full force of the law without fear or favor to this case, and bring to justice those responsible for this brutality. We challenge all relevant government agencies to exhaust all legal means to meet the corresponding punishment for the perpetrators of this heinous crime. We have with great dismay taken note of the government’s initial hesitation to implement the law. We will hold our officials accountable for justice for the massacred victims. We will not condone token efforts to arbitrarily enforce the law and circumvent the justice system in order to allow those responsible to remain scot-free. We want and we deserve a swift, impartial, and truthful investigation that would serve justice and support our basic right to life, regardless of the cost.
Further, we expect our national and local leaders to address the systemic and persistent social problems that perpetuate lawlessness and abuse of power in the region. We demand long-term solutions to the decades-old conflict and violence that have forced Mindanaoans to live in fear and subhuman conditions. We ask the government to dismantle private armies and put an end to the anarchy of clans in the region. We want the government to spearhead efforts towards sustainable development in order to uproot the causes of Mindanaoans’ continued marginalization. The path to peace is a difficult terrain, but we nonetheless count on the national and local authorities to take the lead. We, the Filipino people, deserve nothing less than this.
For our part, we commit ourselves anew to intensified efforts in all our schools to educate our students in the Christian way of charity in truth, justice, and peace. We pledge to form our students in the appreciation of democratic structures and of the social imperatives of living in a multi-religious, multi-cultural free society. We will teach them the history and causes of the problems now faced by the peoples of Mindanao, and acknowledge that all of the Philippines share a responsibility for peace there. We will collaborate to mold our students towards the elimination of prejudice between Christians and Muslims.
We pray for and extend our deepest sympathies and solidarity to the families of the victims, and to all the others whose loved ones have suffered similar injustice in the past. This brazen use of power must stop. We enjoin all citizens to join us and be vigilant in protecting the sacred principles and values in which our society is anchored on.
We will not let the victims die in vain by making sure that, in choosing our future leaders, we will entrust power only to those who will use it with responsibility, integrity, humility, and respect for human life. We will remain steadfast in our commitment to the protection of life, to peace, to freedom.
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), founded in 1941, is the oldest and biggest association of Catholic schools, colleges and universities nationwide. This statement was issued on 03 December 2009, in a press conference held at the Student Center, UST, Manila.
To view the PDF file of the official statement, please click the images below.