By: Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – A Church-Military-Police (CMP) forum-Negros was launched at the Bishop’s House here last Monday to operationalize the collective vision of the Church and the state forces for sustainable peace and development in Negros Island.
The CMP forum, formerly known as CMP Advisory Group – Negros (CMPAG-N), is a venue to forge a harmonious relationship and cooperation between the four Roman Catholic Dioceses in the island, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and their respective subordinate units.
It is also an answer to the need to ensure an open line of communication between the said parties given the long-standing insurgency problem in Negros Island.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was entered into by the said parties to establish the CMP forum and to lay down the nature of the forum as an “institutional platform for dialogue.”
It is to serve as the baseline document for the Church, AFP, and the PNP to govern their engagements regarding realities on security, and peace and order affecting Negros island.
The MOU signing was led by Bishops Patricio Buzon of Bacolod, Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos City, Julito Cortes of Dumaguete City, and Louie Galbines of Kabankalan City, Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde); Brigadier General Ignacio Madriaga, commander of 302nd IBde; Police Colonel Rizalito Gapas, Negros Oriental police provincial director; Colonel Romeo Baleros, Negros Occidental police provincial director; and Colonel Henry Biñas, Bacolod City police director.
Also present in the signing were Major General Dinoh Dolina, commander of 3rd Infantry Division; Police Brigadier General Rene Pamuspusan, Western Visayas regional director; Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, Central Visayas regional director; and Bishop Jaime Florencio of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines.
The CMP forum was established to also promote and respect human dignity and to achieve sustainable peace and development in Negros.
Meanwhile, Rev. Fr. Chris Gonzales, head of Social Action Center, said they have discussed the importance of having close coordination among the church, military, and the police.
“We know that militarization is not a solution to solve the insurgency problem, poverty, and hunger in our society. We also need the cooperation of all sectors,” he said.
Gonzales said the state forces were happy about the initiative of launching such forum which is a good venue to discuss issues that affect peace and order in the island.
He said that it could also be a venue to discuss localized peace talks, adding that the Church is amenable for it and is willing to facilitate if necessary, for the peace and order in the country.
We believe that for as long as we are talking, we will not resort to violence, he said.
However, he said it will still depend on two parties if how they would deal with the localized peace talks.
“There must be sincerity in both groups to talk, including those people who are just in between them,” he said.
A month ago, a series of killings was reported in Negros Oriental, with 17 casualties, and three incidents were confirmed by the police to be insurgency-related.
Last month, four policemen were also killed in an ambush staged by New People’s Army (NPA) in Bindoy town.
The Church has earlier reiterated its call to end the killings, claiming that genuine peace cannot be achieved through military adventurism and tit-for-tat conflict.
For his part, Gapas said the situation now in the oriental side is okay, adding that no similar incidents occurred this month.
Gapas just assumed as Negros Oriental acting provincial director a few weeks ago, replacing Colonel Raul Tacaca, who was relieved from his post in the height of killings in the province last month.
Gapas said they are doing their best to investigate all the cases.
“Iniisa-isa namin at seryoso kami sa pag-iimbestiga. We are hoping for the best,” he added.
He also urged the community to participate and trust the police so that they can also do their part in probing all the cases and to maintain peace and order in the province.
On the other hand, Dolina said there is really a need to stop the killings and through the said forum, they can collaborate on their shared interests and address some issues and concerns.
Dolina also said they are not doing red-tagging, contrary to the claims of some progressive groups.
“We don’t do that because we know who our enemies are,” he said. (With a report from Dolly Yasa)