ARCHBISHOPS LUIS TAGLE AND JOSE PALMA
Two of the most influential archbishops of the Catholic Church have called for an end to the “waste of human lives” in the administration’s war against drugs and asked all sectors in the country to unite in order to put an end to the illicit drug trade.
On Sunday, Manila Archbishop Luis Tagle called not just for an end to the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs but of the drug-related killings, of which 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos was among the dozens killed, just within last week.
On the same day, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma echoed Tagle’s call, saying that while the Catholic Church is not against the war against illegal drugs per se, the continued killings in the campaign has to be stopped.
“We’re saying this not because we are opposed to the war against drugs. But we’re opposed to the way it is now being conducted. And in many ways, we can say it has almost gone out of bounds,” he said in an interview on Sunday.
Police raids dubbed as “One Time Big Time” saw at least 76 people shot dead last week in central Luzon and Metro Manila, as rights groups and lawmakers condemned the operation as an alarming “killing spree” in Duterte’s flagship campaign.
“We knock on the consciences of those manufacturing and selling illegal drugs to stop this activity,” Tagle said in a statement read in Sunday Masses in Manila.
He added, “We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives.”
“The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us,” said Tagle. (see separate full statement)
Duterte, 72, launched an unprecedented crackdown on illegal narcotics after winning the presidency last year on a promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals.
The church, one of the nation’s oldest and most powerful institutions, had been among the few voices denouncing the deaths as polls showed Duterte continued to enjoy widespread popularity.
During the 14 months Duterte has been in power, police have confirmed killing more than 3,500 people — insisting they acted in self-defense.
More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes and thousands more murdered in unexplained circumstances, according to police data.
The numbers saw a sudden increase this week, with Duterte praising officers who shot dead 32 people in Bulacan province as he urged for more.
Following Duterte’s call, at least 51 people were killed in various cities including Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student, whose death in the hands of policemen in Caloocan City on Thursday sparked a national furor.
Relatives of Delos Santos released CCTV footage of the boy being dragged away by two officers as they questioned a police report that he shot at them first.
The police, over the weekend, presented a drug suspect who claimed that Delos Santos had been a drug runner. The suspect, whom police said was arrested on Aug. 17, claimed that the boy was a conduit for him and a drug pusher named “Neneng.”
In Sunday’s statement, Tagle called for nine days of prayer for people who have died in the drug war.
“Those with sorrowful hearts and awakened consciences may come to your pastors to tell your stories and we will document them for the wider society,” he said.
Duterte had launched a broadside against priests and bishops in response to the church campaign to stop the killings.
Appeal for justice
Palma also joined the call of several groups for justice to Delos Santos.
“I join the call for justice. I have heard reports. It was said that before he was killed, he was pleading for the sake of his life because he’s been saying that he still has an exam or something like that. And yet, the next thing we know, he’s dead na,” Palma said.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson of the Cebu Archdiocese, meanwhile called on the public to pray for the eternal repose of the soul of Delos Santos.
“Secondly, is an appeal to continued to pray for peace in the country and also for a sense of sobriety that we will not react immediately until the facts are known. And of course, our third prayer is for the truth to come out so that justice may be served,” Tan said.
In the wake of what could be considered the bloodiest week in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, Palma also launched a prayer of surrender against drug addiction yesterday. (prayer in full on this page)
Palma explained that the prayer is a call for each and everyone to find a way to respond to the problem on illegal drugs and at the same time examine the approach in doing so.
“Because it seems that many have already begin to be suspicious of the way it is being conducted and we know that while we may think we may be able to stop the drug addiction because of this, but we have developed another culture, which is a culture of killing,” he told reporters.