Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman strongly condemned Thursday the desecration of three chapels in the province’s capital of Lamitan City.
Salliman issued the condemnation after still-unidentified persons ransacked the San Isidro Chapels in Barangay Santa Clara, Purok Little Cebu in Barangay Maganda, and Barangay Lukaybato in Lamitan City.
The saints’ images in the three chapels were beheaded, and some thrown out of the chapel. The incidents occurred at a time when the Catholic faithful observed Ash Wednesday.
Salliman said described the desecration as “atrocious and discriminatory.”
“To our Catholic faithful, let this be known to you that I stand with you, as your governor, in your sentiment. We in the Provincial Government despise and condemn in the highest terms the act of defilement,” Salliman said in a statement.
“We raise our voice for justice. We demand the relevant authorities conduct an in-depth investigation on the intent of the perpetrators and get into the bottom of the case lest it will be exploited by groups or individuals whose sinister motive is to undermine the harmonious relationship that we Muslims and Christians are enjoying in the past few years as a result of the relative peace and development that we have collectively gained,” he added.
The governor called on Basileños–both Christians and Muslims–to exercise sobriety and remain calm.
“It is prudent that we need to restrain, using any modes of communication, in peddling rumors, lies, and hearsay that will cause alarm and panic among the general public. Words of peace, compassion, and goodwill must prevail. Our communities have already gone far in the road to peace and development through good governance,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) also denounced the incidents, describing the ransacking as sacrilegious.
“(BARMM) Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim has ordered a thorough investigation,” Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM interior minister and regional spokesperson, said.
Sinarimbo said the incidents could only be perpetrated by “evil men.”
Lamitan City police officials said their investigation showed indications that the culprits used sledgehammers in destroying religious statues.
Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez, BARMM police director, said he has already directed the city and provincial police offices to bring the perpetrators behind bars. (PNA)