Catholic council fears ‘police state’ under Duterte

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Catholic council fears ‘police state’ under Duterte
The Council of the Laity of the Philippines denounces the recent spate of drug-related killings as 'terribly wrong'

MANILA, Philippines – The Council of the Laity of the Philippines said it fears the country becoming a “police state” as hundreds die in police operations and vigilante killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. 

The council, also known as Laiko, raised the following concerns in a statement posted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news service on Tuesday, August 16:

  • The increasing culture of violence where our people become desensitized to the fact that killing is a deterrent to criminals
  • The matter of due process which may give rise to the nation becoming a police state

On due process, Laiko explained: “While we want to give our police much needed support, abuses are always a reality. We don’t want to give authorities that much power to live by the gun in the name of law and order.”

“And when law enforcers make mistakes, innocent lives are endangered. We need to observe all constitutional means as to the right to life,” Laiko added in the statement signed by its president, Zenaida Capistrano, on behalf of the council’s board of directors.

Laiko is the CBCP arm in charge of implementing lay initiatives. 

Its national director is Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who has also criticized the rise of killings under Duterte.

Laiko’s statement comes as more than 650 drug suspects have been killed in police operations pushed by Duterte to solve the drug crisis. The Philippine National Police is also investigating almost 900 other killings linked to the illegal drug trade. 

‘Terribly wrong’

Laiko said: “With the increasing reports of unsolved extrajudicial killings, cases of mistaken identity, stories of people killed under questionable circumstances – we may ask the question: How many more lives, whether guilty or innocent, will be killed before we are convinced that there is something terribly wrong with what is happening in our country right now?”

“As Christians who believe in the value of human life, we cannot continue being passive and indifferent amidst these spate of killings,” Laiko said.

The group then urged national leaders, as well as the police, “to observe due process” in efforts to address the problem of illegal drugs.

“We call on them as well to investigate with care, prudence, and diligence all recent killings as a result of police operations or those committed by vigilante groups,” Laiko said.

“We pray that all peace-loving Filipinos will stand for life and for us all to do what we can that evil and lawlessness will not prevail,” the group added.

Like Laiko, the following religious groups have also issued statements against the recent killings in the country:

International organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have also criticized these drug-related killings under Duterte. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email