• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The support of San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza in the peace and development efforts in Negros Island has been sought by Philippine Army officials.
Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commanding general of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, accompanied by Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, and Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, 79IB commander, on Oct. 8 met with Alminaza at the Bishop’s House in Brgy. Palampas, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.
During their dialogue, Bishop Alminaza emphasized that the absence of war does not necessarily equate to peace, and the root causes of violence must be addressed.
“I want to collaborate; I want it to be clear: I am not in favor of violence, but we must establish the foundation for people to live peacefully. We face many problems, but to address them, we must change our mindset, culture, and attitude. We need long-term solutions, not just quick fixes, as the same problems persist from long ago. Allegations of abuse must be systematically investigated, balanced, and evidence gathered to establish the truth,” the bishop stressed.
While underscoring the importance of dialogue in resolving conflicts, Bishop Alminaza clarified that he is not advocating armed struggle.
“I can assure you, without hesitation, that I am not advocating for armed struggle; I am a proponent of the Christian faith, combining prayerful and proactive approaches, both spiritual and social. My humble efforts toward peace are extended to all, even to those considered as enemies. I will use my prophetic voice to alert people,” he said.
Bishop Alminaza also stressed that checks and balances should be in place when there is doubt, and local government should be empowered, while the church and the military should play a supportive role, with a strong civilian-led approach.
On his part, Sison mentioned that the government’s efforts are centered on good governance, and the Philippine Army plays a vital role in monitoring the proper implementation of Barangay Development Projects (BDPs).
He also gave assurance that the Church-Military and Police Advisory Group (CMPAG) will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders to address security threats and challenges, aiming to tackle the social issues that contribute to armed conflict.
“Our soldiers are not abusers; even though some may look down on our soldiers, they have undergone significant changes. I always emphasize that human rights must never be violated. Our soldiers invest their lives in ensuring peace and security for all. I do not tolerate any violations of humanitarian rights. If such violations occur, I will ensure that those responsible are held accountable and subjected to investigation,” Sison stressed.
The event concluded with a prayer led by the Bishop, seeking guidance for the Army to continue serving as a source of inspiration and hope for the communities they serve, providing protection and safety as they carry out their duties to sustain peace and strengthen the bond between the security forces and the Church.
They also vowed to work together to achieve shared goals, particularly in improving communities and preventing acts of injustice and human rights violations.*