ASIA/PHILIPPINES – “In the name of God stop extrajudicial homicide”: bishop’s message for Advent

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Manila – “Extrajudicial homicide is always wrong even when it means killing a criminal. This is our desperate plea at this time of Advent and Christmas: for the love of God, stop these murders! Let healing begin|” this appeal to Fides comes from Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, head of the diocese of Kalookan and Vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines .
The bishop says that to tackle seriously the problems of drug trafficking and drug dependence the right path is not “eliminating drug addicts”, the way chosen by the anti-drug campaign launched by the President Rodrigo Duterte. It is necessary instead to consolidate rehabilitation progammes for those dependent on harmful substances. Bishop David told Fides that “people addicted to drugs need adequate rehabilitation to overcome this dependence, it is not possible to think that the way is to eliminate these people”.
This is why the Catholic Church in the Philippines offers support: the diocese of Kalookan, like 86 other dioceses in the country, runs rehabilitation programmes for persons addicted to drugs and support for the families in particular guaranteeing education programmes and scholarships.
The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte launched a “war on drugs” following his election in 2016. According to official data, the police has killed some 5,000 suspects in raids aimed at capturing drug pushers, but human rights organizations say the number of those killed, including extrajudicial killing by squadrons of “vigilantes” , amount to four times as much. NGO say the “war on drugs” has killed some 20 thousand innocent victims, executed summarily in what is called “systematic extermination” of drug addicts in the poorest communities. The police rejects the accusations and says the killings regard drug pushers resisting arrest.
Once Bishop David described his diocese Kalookan an “extermination camp “, vigorously denouncing extrajudicial homicides. “The war on illegal drugs must be implacable but these killings must be stopped ” the Bishop said in a public plea.
Amidst an apparent “normalisation of violence”, the Bishop never tires of preaching the principle of non-violence: “We will never allow our actions be motivated by anger, hatred, revenge. We will not let evil have the last word. We will not allow the enemy to shape us in his image and likeness “, he repeats. “We cannot passively allow this senseless killing just because some of us think it is good for society “, he states. For these public stances the Bishop has incurred in the hostility of President Duterte.
The Bishop says “drug dependence is a serious sickness which must be treated with rehabilitation not bullets”. Even people who make mistakes deserve a second chance : “This is one of the most important principles of our Christian faith: we all live only thanks to the mercy of a God who forgives. Who are we to condemn if our God forgives? Which of us does not commit errors?” the Bishop asks
Bishop David addresses also the recent killing of Filipino priests, which shook the Church: “Those priests show us just how precious the priesthood is. They are martyrs who gave their lives to care for the flock entrusted to them “.