IN the face of widespread killings related to the war on drugs, a Roman Catholic bishop has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to declare as “peace zones” all barangay (villages) and dioceses throughout the country where there are drug rehabilitation programs.
Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias made the appeal during the recent launching of a national campaign against illegal drugs dubbed as Mamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamayang Ayas sa Iligal na Droga in Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
“Is it possible, Mr. President, that you declare as peace zones all dioceses or barangay with ongoing [drug]rehabilitation programs in collaboration with the police?” Tobias said as he expressed alarm on the more than 3,000 suspected drugs pushers or users who were killed either in legitimate police operations or by vigilantes.
He noted that the increasing number of casualties in government’s war on drugs is fast catching up with the recorded 4,000 individuals who were killed during 20 years of martial law.
If the President heeded his call, Tobias said, the vigilante-style enforcement of the law would end.
He reiterated that the Church supports the campaign against all forms of criminality as long as it is done in accordance with rules of engagement, reason and value for human life.
Tobias said they can also help the police in verifying or establishing accuracy of their lists of drug dependents and pushers
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has launched a nationwide prayer campaign, “A Million Roses for the World: Filipinos at Prayer for the Nation,” amid the alleged killings.
CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on the faithful to pray the 20 mysteries of the Holy Rosary everyday, saying prayers are powerful weapons for world change .
Earlier, the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care (ECPPC) proposed a “correctional summit” to address illegal drugs and other core issues besetting the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
CBCP-ECPPC chairman Bro. Rodolfo Diamante said the summit will help solve the pestering proliferation of illegal drugs in the NBP through the joint efforts of Congress, the police and non-government groups.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL