ALARMED by the recent spate of drug-related killings, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Sunday called for an end to drug-related killings and proposed the holding of a Church-sponsored multisectoral dialogue to come up with a united response to the illegal drugs problem.
“We knock on the consciences of those manufacturing and selling illegal drugs to stop this activity. 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 cardinal said in a letter read on Sunday in all churches in the Archdiocese of Manila. Tagle said there was no debate that the drug menace is real and destructive, but stressed that given the complexity of the issues, “no single individual, group or institution could claim to have the only right response.”
“We need one other. We cannot disregard each other. Let us invite families, national government agencies, local government units, people’s organizations, schools, faith-based communities, the medical profession, the police and military, recovering addicts, etc. to come together, listen to each other and chart a common path,” the prelate said.
The cardinal issued the statement days after the killing of 17-year-old senior high school student Kian de los Santos at the hands of police in Caloocan City, which has sparked public outrage.
Tagle said the families of victims of the war on drug should come out and tell their stories so that everybody would be able to better understand the situation and not just rely on statistics.
He also 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.
Ring the bells
Also on Sunday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, called on the faithful to help those who support the killings to come to their senses.
Villegas instructed all churches in Lingayen-Dagupan to ring their bells continuously from 8 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., starting on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22 until the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on November 27.
“The ringing of the Church bells is the voice of God that may awaken the callous and blind conscience of some people. Thou shall not kill! It’s a sin! It’s against the law! That’s what the Church bells are saying,” Villegas said.
He added that a lot of people were afraid to speak out about the drug-related killings and selective justice, citing as an example the P6.4 billion in illegal drugs smuggled from China without difficulty.
“Ito na ba ang bagong tama? [Is this the new right]?” Villegas said.
Battle lines are likely to be drawn between the Senate and the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte if it turns out in the investigation that the spate of renewed drug-related killings were state-sponsored, Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned Sunday.
A total of 81 suspected drug personalities were killed last week in separate anti-drug operations carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP), including 17-year-old Kian.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd called for a meeting with members of the Senate majority Sunday night to discuss a proposed legislative inquiry by the public order and dangerous drugs committee and a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the recent drug killings.
Lacson said the Senate must be careful in investigating the matter.
“The Senate as an institution will not continue to support the President even after it finds that the killings were state-sponsored,” he added.
The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, headed by Lacson, is likely to conduct the probe this week and majority of the senators have expressed their support for the move.
The investigation will also focus on the case of de los Santos who was killed by policemen after he allegedly fired at police officers and tried to escape.
Witnesses and a footage of a closed-circuit camera that reportedly captured the police operation are telling a different story.
Lacson said they would also look at the supposed quota system being imposed on police nationwide wherein the head of stations must come up with results on their anti-drug operations or be relieved of their posts.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito has expressed support for the Senate investigation and warned police officers that they should not go overboard because they would be made answer to all their wrongdoings.
“Summary killings have no place in our country, that is a very barbaric act, and I’d like to warn our police officers, that although the President is supporting them, they should not go overboard,” Ejercito said.