Everyone who cares about and has respect for human rights and human dignity and value of the right to life has a duty to stand up and defend these rights against their violation. More especially The Catholic Church leadership and the People of God in the Philippines are challenged as moral leaders professing belief in human dignity and he sacredness of human life.
They are facing the stark moral realities of the Philippine government’s violent war-on-drugs. All who believe in mercy, compassion and understanding, and justice are called upon to take a stand and speak out about the right and wrong of it. They are also called to reach out to those drug dependents who are in danger of being shot dead and are in need of healing care and help.
Apparently many Catholics are approving of the violent campaign that involves summary execution of suspects. What kind of Christianity is this?
Few can doubt the commitment of the President to rid the Philippines of the drug menace, the violent killing of suspects is deeply troubling when the police and the military sworn to defend the constitutional rights of all are part of such a campaign. They are bound also by the Universal declaration on human rights and international treaties, protocols and the rule of law. The principle “innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt”, is a sacred principle to protect the innocent against false accusations, arbitrary arrest, and summary executions.
The Catholic Church has made a statement on the killing of suspects recently. The head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Archbishop Soc Villegas signed a statement that deplored the violence. The key sentence says:
“Although death is a twin sister born with us on the same day we were born, death by terror and violence, death in the hands of our fellowmen is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. With willful murder, we also grieve the sins of sexual perversion, oppression of the poor and the defrauding of laborers of their wages. Like murder, these sins cry to heaven for divine justice. We are not numb to these other offenses against human life”.
But is it enough to make a pious statement and should it have cried to heaven not for vengeance but instead issued and led an action campaign as it did against the reproduction law? Should it have declared a clear message that the killings of suspects is wrong and we need to work for justice and peace?
Is the message of the CBCP to little too late?
Eighty percent of the Philippine population can be said to be Catholic and perhaps 60 percent know and believe in the commandment, “Thou shall not kill” and the dictum “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”.
In a July 2016 poll by Pulse Asia, a stunning 91% Filipinos polled said that they trusted in the president and seemingly supported his campaign. How true it is we cannot be sure as Filipino culture has a dictum never to speak negatively of anyone especially one in authority and one harsh with critics and with a shoot-to-kill campaign.
How many in the poll were practicing Catholics is unknown but a majority is safe estimate. Catholics are committed by their faith to uphold life, support and protect the downtrodden, and to take a stand for them. So the Church must question the lethal methods used in the war on drugs.
Those methods according to some commentators violate human rights and the dignity of the human person. If Catholic life is about upholding values and human dignity and not only routinely attending Holy Mass, religious rites and rituals and singing hymns has to be seen flowing into action. St. James has said in his New Testament letter “Faith without good deeds is dead.” Catholics are called by their faith to take a stand on the moral issue of justice and due process and the right of the people to live and not be shot dead on mere suspicion.
If many have supported the campaign they will come to grief when it turns on their children and their relatives and they will feel that there is no community, church or civil institution left to protect their rights.
Earlier, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, De La Salle Philippines president Brother Jose Mari Jimenez, Ateneo de Manila University president Father Jose Ramon Villarin, and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines, among others, criticized the killings said to be more than 3500.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani appealed to the conscience of the authorities and other individuals to stop killing drug suspects. Taking a stand and speaking out for justice, for what is just and right, but while many can and should support the many good things in the administration, the shoot-to-kill ought not be part of it and the catholic community must decide on that.