THE country’s largest network of denominations, churches, mission groups and para-church organizations expressed concern over the growing number of victims of extra-judicial killings.
Bishop Noel A. Pantoja, national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), said although they fully support President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, they were also greatly disturbed by the killings.
“We are deeply concerned with the daily bloodshed of those who are accused of being a “pusher,” “addict,” or involved in some way in prohibited drugs,” Pantoja stressed.
“While there certainly are legitimate instances when our police forces need to inflict fatal injuries, there also are numerous instances when drug suspects, many of them only in their youth, seemed to have been brutally killed outside the ambit of the law.”
“Where is the rule of law that ensures every Filipino accused of an offense must first be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by a court of law before fair and just punishments are meted out? Where is justice in the killings of those who are accused when our law does not even permit as a punishment the killing of a person? How can we claim justice and peace in our land when murderers are allowed to kill with impunity and roam freely? We grieve for the many that have been unjustly killed and for the loved ones they left behind,” he added.
The same sentiment has also been aired by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), cause-oriented groups, people’s organizations and some lawmakers.
The PCEC said it supports and commends Duterte for ordering an investigation of extra-judicial killings. However, it called on the President to be more circumspect in his assertions and pronouncements concerning the taking of human life since such statements can be interpreted as explicit or tacit approval to carry out unlawful executions.
“We earnestly hope our belief on the utmost sacredness of every human life can be reflected in our government’s campaign against illegal drugs and give those who are addicted in substance abuse every chance to recover and be contributing citizens that follow not only our nation’s laws but also God’s laws,” Pantoja said.
He asked Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa to speed up the investigation of the killings of alleged drug suspects and to apprehend the killers.
The League of Filipino Students (LFS) also on Thursday held a Metro Manila-wide candle lighting and noise barrage to condemn the spate of killings.
“Today, we are lighting candles to express our desire to end the rampant extra-judicial killings in our country. We are making noise to show our clamor for justice. On this day, thousands of students from different universities across Metro Manila are urging President Duterte to stop the killings,” JP Rosos, the group’s spokesperson, said.
“President Duterte should understand that the youth and students are behind him in his crusade to annihilate drugs but not the extra-judicial killings. We strongly condemn the killings,” Rosos said.
He pointed out that among the victims of drug killings was Jefferson Bunuan, a student from the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, who was killed on July 18 in a buy bust operation in Sta. Ana, Manila.