THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), through its social action and justice arm, has joined the snowballing move for an impartial investigation into Sunday’s joint police-military operations in the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Calabarzon) region that resulted in the deaths’ of nine alleged activists and the arrest of six others.

“We denounce the unnecessary use of force and violence in the government’s quest for peace which only victimizes the poor and the vulnerable,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, chairman, CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace
(Nassa).

Bagaforo has joined Malacañang and the Department of Justice (DoJ) which had called for an impartial probe on the incident amid allegations that there was no shootout during the crackdown as the activists were unarmed.

The Calabarzon police said that the joint police-military operatives were out to served search warrants for loose firearms and explosives. It included the names of the nine fatalities, who it claimed, engaged police and military in an armed confrontation.

The incidents happened two days after President Rodrigo Duterte told security forces to “kill” and “finish off” armed communist rebels in encounters — and “don’t mind human rights”.

The prelate urged President Duterte to ensure that the individual rights of Filipinos are respected and protected in the government’s campaign against insurgency.

“We appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to choose rule of law over militarization in solving the country’s insurgency and terrorism problems,” Bagaforo said.

“We vow, as a Church, always to protect the sanctity of life of everyone, and defend the rights of the poor and the vulnerable,” he added.

In a related development, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog “condemned in strongest terms” the ambush-slay of Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino and his two security escorts.

The bishop called for a thorough investigation “and bring into the bar of justice the ones responsible”.

The local chief executive was attacked while on his way to a family resort within Calbayog to attend his son’s birthday party.

His security escorts were able to retaliate and killed two of the attackers, who happened to be policemen.

Aquino was serving his third and last term as Calbayog mayor. He replaced then mayor Reynaldo Uy, who was also killed in May 2011.