Jesuit head in Philippines: Killings ‘deplorable’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Jesuit head in Philippines: Killings ‘deplorable’
Father Antonio Moreno, provincial superior of the Philippine Jesuits, hits 'a dangerous culture of impunity' that 'is seeping into our social fabric'

MANILA, Philippines – Father Antonio Moreno, the Philippine head of one of the world’s most influential religious orders, criticized the recent extrajudicial killings in the Philippines as he called for a “discerned response” to the war on drugs. 

Moreno is the provincial superior of the Jesuit order in the Philippines.

His group, formally known as the 476-year-old Society of Jesus, is the biggest male religious order in the Catholic Church. It is recognized for running schools such as the Ateneo de Manila and the Ateneo de Davao, which was once the school of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Moreno wrote a letter to his Jesuit brothers on August 19, acknowledging the “deep and complex” drug problem in the Philippines. “It has broken and ruined the lives of so many people,” he said.

Moreno, however, added in his letter, “While the drug issue has to be addressed systematically and effectively, the loss of lives without due process that is now going on is deplorable.”

He then noted the rising death toll every day in the war on drugs.

The Jesuit provincial continued: “The drive to eliminate drugs has wittingly or unwittingly created more widows and orphans whose lives, like the victims of drugs, are forced to endure deep trauma and pain. And a dangerous culture of impunity and unaccountability is seeping into our social fabric whereby an irresponsible ‘end justifies the means’ mentality is disturbingly tolerated.”

‘Circles of discernment’ urged

“The issue is greatly dividing our people again,” Moreno said.

To address this issue, he then asked Jesuit communities, institutions, and ministries, as well as their partners, to study this issue “as to consider appropriate collective actions.”

Moreno, former president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga, also urged the creation of more “circles of discernment to pray over and reflect on this contentious issue.”

“I ask our government leaders, too, to hear not only the cries of drug victims and their families, but to restore the rule of law and heed the longings of those who have lost loved ones,” Moreno said.

Moreno joins a growing list of religious groups and individuals criticizing the recent killings in the Philippines:

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa told a Senate inquiry this week that 1,946 people have died amid the war on drugs.

Dela Rosa said police have shot dead 756 suspects in self defense.

He said there are another 1,190 killings under investigation, but added they were likely due to drug gangs murdering people who could implicate them. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/

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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