Thou shalt not kill—not even drug lords

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THE death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.— Pope Francis at the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty

LET’S call a spade a spade.

Since Rodrigo Duterte’s victory looked certain a day or so after the May 9 elections, police have killed more than 100 alleged drug pushers and users, purportedly after suspects resisted arrest and even grabbed law enforcers’ firearms.

In fact, most of the casualties were murdered.


After the first few headlined killings, every drug lord, pusher or user would know better than to fight against arresting officers and provide the pretext for his rubout. Hence, most
offenders would have just surrendered peacefully, if they could not hide or flee.

Yet incredibly, the Philippine National Police has accused all suspects killed of refusing to give up and even trying to harm PNP officers and men.

We should not believe that canard. The plain truth is that police encouraged by President Duterte’s tough talk against drug traffickers have been executing suspects with no legal or moral justification.

An alarming number of casualties were decimated to prevent them from identifying and testifying against their erstwhile protectors and drug suppliers in the PNP, as Duterte himself has pointed out.

With this unprecedented murder spree, drug traffickers and users have surrendered in huge groups to prevent their rubout, since the police could not possibly kill them in such numbers and claim they resisted arrest, grabbed guns, and fought to the death.

The two-month spate of suspect killings by law enforcers are the bloodiest in Philippine and probably Asian history. Legislators are right to call for investigations. Even the Palace is disturbed, while vainly explaining the deaths as a sign of how mammoth the drug menace is.

Yet what is most disturbing about the 100-something narco-deaths is that most Filipinos—85 percent of them Catholic and supposedly subscribing to Pope Francis’s above-quoted moral precepts—seem undisturbed by the carnage, and many cheer it.

Why we condone the killings

Have the Filipino faithful forgotten the Fifth Commandement? (If one doesn’t know what it forbids, then maybe there is some memory loss.) Why the seemingly widespread acceptance of death for drug offenders, and even torture and mutilation?

Well, for starters, the lawless scourge is unprecedented, indeed, enough to get Duterte elected mainly on his anti-crime drive as Davao City mayor and despite his profanity, womanizing, and kill-the-crooks record and rhetoric, which his regime now implements.

During the presidency of Benigno Aquino 3rd, lawless incidents tripled to more than a million a year since 2013, from 324,083 crimes in 2010. Drug trafficking and addiction also flourished, burdening millions of Filipino families. And crooks in government protected those on the street and even the ones in prison, who ran their syndicates from luxury cottages.

In the face of that explosion of lawlessness, one can understand why Filipinos may set aside moral strictures on killing just to stop the hoods. Criminals victimized an estimated 5 million people and addicts in the past three years (1.5 victims for each crime, plus addicts), and distressed 25 million of their close family and friends (five for every victim).

That’s about one-third of all citizens, close to Duterte’s 38 percent landslide. Most, if not all, are keen to eradicate criminals with or without due process, so that murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and other crimes never touch their families again.

With the mass surrender of drug traffickers and users, Filipinos are even more impressed with the extrajudicial methods. And the idea of capturing crooks, then seeing them manipulate the criminal justice system—that due-process policy seems not just dumb, but even immoral for failing to protect righteous, law-abiding communities.

Ask any crime victim or his close family and friends if Duterte should rein in the current bloodletting. Many will likely retort that he is right to put the people’s security above the rights of criminals.

Why we must denounce them

Understanding why crime-spooked Filipinos may favor the current bloodbath, however, does not mean agreeing with them.

Sure, we may not be able to stop the killing of criminal suspects, and we may even concede that the body count is slashing lawlessness and narcotics. But we must still express our moral revulsion at extrajudicial killings, and take steps to reduce them.

We must join Catholic bishops and other moral figures, as well as political and citizens’ bodies in denouncing the rubouts and demanding inquiries and safeguards. We must join independent, upright media in probing and exposing suspect assassinations.

And we must press all three branches of government to accelerate criminal justice reform, including the protection of judges and fiscals under threat, so that the police, the prosecution, the courts can ensure that crime doesn’t pay and criminals do.

Let us not silence our moral perspective, but speak up on the wrongs of denying rights and snuffing out lives. Otherwise, we help propagate the idea feeding lawlessness: that inviolable commandments, tenets and values can be violated for the “right” reasons.

If the government can justify executing suspects without trial to attain peace and order in the land, then what’s to stop drug syndicates from plying their trade to give jobs and a better life to the traffickers and their families and communities?

And if human needs and decisions count more than divine edicts on preserving life and enabling the wayward to repent and reform, then we open the door for the enemies of heaven to lead us to hell by promising paradise on earth if we just do things our way instead of God’s.

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7 Comments

  1. protestant Filipino on

    For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. – Romans 13:4 – The holy bible

    “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” – Luke 17:2 – The holy bible, words of Jesus

    “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.- Malachi 3:6 ” – Words of God direct

    “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” – GEnesis 9:6

    Sir, you confuse murder, with righteous justice of defense and death penalty, that God himself instituted. Please prove it from God’s own mouth directly commanding all death penalty .

    Thou shalt not murder. It is NOT thou shalt not kill. The difference between murder and kill is huge.

  2. voices to stop peddling illegal drugs are not heeded. can you show us any programs, government programs, telling drug lords, drug pushers, coddlers, and addicts who listened, changed, rehabilitated? no. i don’t see groups of pushers/dealers/addicts/drug lords/protectors that do. A man, PRRD, is the one who got the courage to stop these people, especially those in government that protects these drug lords.

  3. these drug dealers are killed because they are really connected to drugs… the crooks knows that the gov’t has their intelligence, so to avoid collateral damage to these drug trade org, they silenced the drug dealers before govt get to them…

    And what would you prefer? A dead drug dealers or a dead person killed by people connected to drugs.? Your choice

  4. Nomer obnamia on

    PI is not a Christian nation but Catholic nation worshipping the pope and dead saints that is an abomination to the true and living God of the Bible. The moral and spiritual conditions of the nation deteriorated to this level is because the clergies are sleeping on the job, ignorant of true Christian faith, and unbiblical doctrine and practices of Catholic church.

  5. What about the victims of these drug pushers ? Do they have a right to live peacefully ? What about the broken families of these drug users ? Do they have a right to have a solid loving family? Christ was sentenced to die in the cross. There was a death penalty during Christ time. Not all people are child of God. There are child of perdition too.

  6. Thank you for this article. The Philippines is either a Christian nation or not. All lives matter, even those of suspected criminals. We need more voices to speak up against these killings and extermination of so-called drug dealers, pushers, sellers, and even addicts. President Duterte and his minions have encouraged these summary executions. It is now time for him to walk back his dictum, and put a stop to this abuse of power by the police. The Philippines is supposedly still governed by the rule of Law. It is now beginning to be known as the place for the new killing fields of Asia. Is this going to be the meaning of the slogan: “It is more fun in the Philippines” under the revolutionary regime of Pres. Duterte”?

    The Catholic Clergy should start a movement to stop these senseless murders. It is not enough to pray or hold a vigil. Given that the country is predominantly Catholic, it should be easy to mobilize groups (nuns, students, activists, priests, et al.) to send a message to the government that such murders are abhorrent, intolerable and unchristian. “Action speak louder than words”!

    • protestant Filipino on

      For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. – Romans 13:4 – The holy bible