LEGAZPI CITY: Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi called on President Rodrigo to stop the killings in his all-out war against drugs in order to start the healing process.
Baylon said drug addiction is a disease and a public health concern that the government must address in a proper way not through extra-judicial killings (EJKs).
The prelate of Legazpi said they posted an open letter to the President last year, asking him “to order specifically these extrajudicial killings be stopped, investigated, and those responsible arrested and brought to justice.”
“It seems our appeal fell on deaf ears and stony hearts. But the recent murders of several youngsters and attempts to restrain the promotion of human rights have awakened the conscience of many,” Baylon said.
This Sunday, a pastoral letter on the killings in the war on drugs “Stop the Killings, Start the Healing: A Call to Action” will be read anew in 47 parishes here.
The pastoral letter reads, “We are called to heed the cry of the earth and the poor. Today in our communities, this includes listening to the cries of families of victims of killings and violence.
“God created us in his image and likeness. That is why we have the capacity to love, to be just and merciful. Today this fundamental truth about our human dignity and capacity for loving is being supplanted by a mindset that says there are persons who, on account of their sins, have lost their dignity and their rights to equal protection of the law.
“This year, we celebrate our parishes and highlight our being a communion of communities. To promote communion, we need to regain our capacity to respect the rights and dignity of all. This can only happen when we listen to the cries of the poor and the suffering in our midst. We need to regain our trust in government so we can work together for the good of all.”
Baylon added this can only happen if the rule of law, truth-telling, and accountability again become the norms in governance.
Pope Francis, during his Apostolic Visit to Colombia on September 10, said, “How much have we neglected, allowing barbarity to become enfleshed in the life of our people? Jesus commands us to confront those types of behavior, those ways of living that damage society and destroy the community. How many times have we ‘normalized’ the logic of violence and social exclusion, without prophetically raising our hands or voices!”
The Diocese of Legazpi also issued a circular to spell out more concrete steps in support of this call to action.
Earlier, Msgr. Cris Bernarte parish priest of Holy Fatima in Tahao Road this city, said in his homily at Saint Rose of Lima parish in Bacacay town, “Don’t be cowed, stand up against EJK. Fake news and extra judicial killing are taking place under the present administration. Coalesce to condemn the happening in our country. If you keep quiet in the ongoing extra-judicial killing you’re accepting the norm of EJK.”
The church bells of the Diocese of Legazpi have been ringing for the longest time in the country. They have been tolling in Albay since November 2016 in the hope that Duterte will stop the killings in the government’s war against illegal drugs.
Father Rex Arjona, executive director of the Social Action Center (SAC), said the Diocese supports Duterte’s war on drugs through rehabilitation and without bloodshed.
The diocese is implementing “Harong Paglaom” (House of Hope), a community-based rehabilitation program which aims to help rehabilitate substance users through spiritual guidance and life skills training in collaboration with local government units.
The program was piloted in the villages of Rawis and San Roque here.