Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the bombing of a Catholic Mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi City

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the bombing of a Catholic Mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi City

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) strongly condemns the attack carried out in the gymnasium of Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City during a Catholic Mass on 03 December 2023. Based on initial news reports, the bombing claimed 4 lives and injured at least 45 others as of writing. CHR Region X has launched a Quick Response Operation (QRO) and is willing to provide assistance to the victims’ families as needed.

Such incidents of violence that seek to sow fear amongst people and intend to disrupt all efforts towards peacebuilding, especially in places of worship and learning, contradict the principles of international humanitarian law. To note, this bombing comes at a time when we are observing the Mindanao Week of Peace. We call out the perpetrators for their obvious dismissal of the shared responsibility to preserve human dignity and to respect the call in defense of human rights.

The Commission reiterates that part of our mandate is to monitor and investigate allegations of human rights violations–including those committed by non-state actors and armed groups. We recognize the swift response of the security sector to respond to the situation in MSU and bring forth the truth to hold all perpetrators accountable. We are in one with the national government in contributing towards the resolution of this incident.

Not only do these incidents result in immediate pain and suffering, but also have a lasting impact on communities, depriving victims of their educational opportunities and creating a climate of fear among students, faculties, and families. These violent acts affront the values of peace and humanity. As enshrined in Article XIV, Section 1 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, education is a fundamental human right of all. Any attack on schools and places of learning is an attack on our collective aspirations to build a better and brighter society.

Moreover, it is also crucial to recognise the importance of religious freedom as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; to manifest [their] religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” Violence perpetrated in the pursuit of religious beliefs is not only a violation of the principle of coexistence but also a stain on the reputation of faith communities around the world.

The Commission extends its heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the bombing and their families and friends. We express our hope that this incident will not hinder our collective effort toward a just and lasting peace across the nation.###

Erratum: The earlier draft of this statement reflects 11 deaths resulting from the bombing incident. It has been corrected to 4 deaths based on recent news reports. CHR is grateful for the feedback as we commit in ensuring accuracy in the facts being cited in present and future press releases.