A group of Church leaders has warned that lack of condemnation of the surge in the number of summary killings of people linked to illegal drugs can lead to a culture of “impunity.”
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) on Thursday said while they support the crusade of President Rodrigo Duterte against the problem of illegal drugs, they cannot countenance the daily incidence of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and drug users.
“We are alarmed at the silence of the government, groups and majority of the people in the face of these killings. Ubi boni tacent malum prosperat. Evil prospers where good men are silent. Is this lack of public outcry a tacit approval of what is happening? Is it fear that prevents people from speaking out? Whatever the reason, this problem, if it remains unchecked, leads to a culture of impunity,” said Father Cielito Almazan and Sister Regina Kuizon, AMRSP co-chairmen, said in a statement.
As of August 23, authorities had already recorded 1,916 deaths. Of the number, 750 were attributed to legitimate police operations, while the rest, 1,166, were alleged vigilante-style killings.
The group said the alarming incidence of summary killings has been happening daily for the last two months and the number of dead bodies are still rising with apparently no end in sight.
“As religious and consecrated persons, we believe that the wheels of justice should take their course following the proper procedure and operate within the bounds of the law,” it added.
“We demand that the concerned government agencies continue apprehending those involved in drug trafficking but avoiding extrajudicial killings, and pursue and apprehend vigilantes who carry out such illegal actions,” the AMRSP said.
It committed to do its share to help the government address the problem of illegal drugs and in putting an end to vigilante justice.
Among others, the group vowed to care for the violated, the orphaned and the widowed through counseling, sharing and integration with gospel values, and to stand with people of other faiths and other beliefs in the inviolability and sacredness of life.
It also committed to recognize that the drug problem is a complex and deeply emotional issue that needs to be addressed holistically, with great understanding and compassion for both victim and perpetrator for “we are all dehumanized by this culture of death,” and support the need for reforms in the criminal justice system and the need for rehabilitation of drug dependents.
The group cited the need to weed out the corrupt in the country’s security forces as well as in the prosecution service and the judiciary, saying the drug menace is an intricate web of corruption and patronage that feeds on the insatiable desire of people for profit.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Fr. Atillano Fajardo of Manila Archdiocese’s Public Affairs Ministry, among other Church officials, also aired a similar concern.
According to Villegas, the drug-related killings “are too much to swallow.”
“I do not have to be a bishop to say this. I do not have to be a Catholic to be disturbed by the killings that jar us every time we hear or watch or read the news,” he earlier said in a statement entitled “Let the Humanity in Us Speak.”
“My humanity is in grief. I am in utter disbelief… This is too much to swallow,” Villegas added.
But Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, said Duterte is on the right track.
According to Rosales, the President has shown decisiveness never seen before in his predecessors, and even chided critics and fault-finders, saying they do not have a monopoly over righteousness.
“Now there is a new leader and we can see he is on a right track, the leadership really is on right track,” Rosales earlier said at the Church-run Radyo Veritas.