THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) warned law enforcers against vigilantism amid the reported deaths of suspected drug peddlers and pushers and other criminals in encounters with police operatives.
CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Arcbishop Socrates Villegas, said on Monday that the Church supports the government’s campaign against all forms of criminality but it must be done in accordance with the rules of engagement and value for human life.
“We commend you, our law enforcers, on your new-found earnestness in enforcing the law and in apprehending malefactors, but we are disturbed by an increasing number of reports that suspected drug peddlers, pushers and others about whom reports of criminal activity have been received, have been shot, supposedly because they resist arrest,” said Villegas in a pastoral letter.
“It is equally disturbing that vigilantism seems to be on the rise. Media has carried reports of bodies, apparently of homicide or murder victims, showing up on whom placards announcing their supposed crimes are writ large,” the prelate added.
The CBCP recommended a five-step guideline in dealing with criminals, stressing that a “shoot to kill” order should only be resorted to on the ground of legitimate self-defense or in defense of civilians and for purposes of Catholic morality.
“It is necessary to emphasize that you, as law enforcers, can ‘shoot to kill’ only first, where there is unjust provocation; second, where there is a real, not only conjectural, threat to your life or to the lives and safety of others; third, when there is due proportion between the threat posed and your own use of a firearm aimed at the threatening subject,” it said.
It stressed that killing a suspect outright is not morally justified, and punishment should be inflicted only on the ground of certainty.
When an arrest is made and the suspect tries to flee, every attempt by non-lethal means should be made to stop the suspect from fleeing and if shot at, every attempt should be made to spare the fleeing suspect from death, unless the escape of such a victim clearly and immediately puts others in harm’s way, the CBCP said.
It added that it is never morally permissible to receive reward money for the killing of a person.
“When bounty-hunting takes the form of seeking out suspects of crime, killing them, then presenting proof of the death of the object of the hunt to the offeror of the reward, one is hardly any different from a mercenary, a gun-for-hire, no matter that the object of one’s manhunt should be a suspected offender,” the CBCP pointed out.
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that he will pay bounties to police and military officials and even civilians who capture suspected drug lords “dead or alive.” Duterte said he will give P5 million for every slain drug lord, and P3 million for those captured alive.
“I’m not saying that you kill them but the order is dead or alive,” Duterte earlier said.
Villegas said criminality should be stopped but he called on the Catholic faithful to report all forms of vigilantism.
“We must all ask ourselves whether or not by our silence, our indifference, or worse, our
acts, we may have contributed to the proliferation of crime and the increase in criminal activity,” the prelate added.
Villegas appealed as well to prosecutors and judges to remain firm in their consecration to justice.