MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday, September 15, called on law enforcers to respect human rights amid the rising death toll in the government’s war on drugs.
“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,” the CBCP said in a rare statement signed by its president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Titled “I will turn their mourning into joy,” the statement said the CBCP is grieving for the deaths in communities, including “violent senseless deaths in the hands of our brother Cain, unnecessary deaths by sickness and accidents, deaths from a terror bombing in Davao, deaths of babies caused by their own mothers, deaths because of police encounters, deaths from extrajudicial killings.” (READ: Full text of the CBCP statement)
For the families left behind by the dead, the CBCP urged them to “seek justice but not revenge.”
For “all enforcers of the law,” the CBCP asked that “divine fortitude and wisdom” guide them so that “human rights may everywhere be respected, human dignity always protected and the nobility of every human person shine forth despite the scar of crime and sin.”
This is the first time under the Duterte administration that the influential CBCP addressed the recent killings in Asia’s largest Catholic nation. Before President Rodrigo Duterte took office, the organization already slammed “vigilantism” amid the war against crime.
The statement comes amid the rising number of deaths attributed to the “war on drugs” – both from legitimate police operations and extrajudicial or unexplained killings.
From July 1 until the 2nd week of September 2016, a total of 3,526 persons have been killed, based on data from the Philippine National Police. About 1,491 were drug personalities killed in police operations, while 2,035 were victims of extrajudicial or vigilante killings.
The CBCP noted the “hate words and calumny, the vulgarity and lies, the cynicism and indifference” now prevailing in society.
These “upheavals” came about because of “our fear of reprisal and our timidity born from misplaced prudence,” the CBCP said.
Deaths in communities, addiction, “unabated” criminality, and even the “erosion of cherished Filipino values like reverence for elders, basic courtesies and respectful manners” challenge everyone “to search our souls again,” the CBCP said.
“May our grief be turned to repentance and our repentant sorrow be turned into joy. May darkness of confusion be overcome by His light and may our cold indifference be cured by a new fire of Pentecost.
‘Drug addicts are children of God’
The nationwide crackdown on drugs has also seen the surrender of at least 710,961 drug pushers and users.
The CBCP reached out to those suffering from drug dependence and addiction.
“Drug addicts are children of God equal in dignity with the sober ones. Drug addicts are sick brethren in need of healing deserving of new life. They are patients begging for recovery,” the CBCP said.
Not even drug addicts who “may have behaved as scum and rubbish” are “ever so unworthy of God’s love.” The CBCP added: “To them caught in the chains of drug addiction, we say ‘Do not be afraid to turn to the Lord and receive new life. Show your scars and wounds to the Divine Mercy, ask for God’s help and like the son of the widow of Nain rise up and return to your family in love, healed and renewed.'” – Rappler.com