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Bishops hit Duterte for pitting human rights vs human lives

Paterno Esmaquel II
Bishops hit Duterte for pitting human rights vs human lives
(UPDATED) 'Such a statement implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives!' says Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David after SONA 2018

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for pitting human rights against human lives in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA), as he promised to continue a “chilling” anti-drug campaign.

“Such a statement implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives!” David said in a Facebook post late Monday evening, July 23.

David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), pointed out, “Is not the right to life the most basic human right?”

The bishop made this statement after Duterte said in his SONA on Monday, “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.” (READ: FULL TEXT: President Duterte’s 2018 State of the Nation Address

Duterte earlier questioned if drug addicts could be considered human beings. “Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being? Tell me. Human rights. Use it properly in the right context, if you have the brains,” Duterte said in August 2016

On Monday, David said he wonders if any civilized nation would agree “that addicts are ‘not human.'” He said the Catholic Church “can never agree with such a statement.” (READ: Cardinal Tagle: ‘I will not give up on criminals’

He added that “what people with substance-use disorder need is rehabilitation,” and the Catholic Church is “willing to help out in this endeavor.” (READ: Church in Bulacan runs 27-year-old drug rehab program)

“Yes, use the full force of the law, file charges against violators, jail the pushers and the suppliers, but save the users; do not kill them! Besides, we cannot rehabilitate dead people anymore, can we?” David said. 

At the recently concluded Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, David slammed “death squads” roaming his city’s streets. He also warned that in the Philippines, “whispers can kill.”

Like David, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo criticized Duterte for making his recent remarks about human rights.

“There should be no separation between human lives and human rights,” Pabillo told Rappler.

Pabillo said he was sad that many in the audience during Duterte’s SONA clapped when the President contrasted human rights and human lives. He stressed that there is nothing wrong about fighting drugs, but killing drug users is not the proper solution.

“Lahat ng tao may buhay, lahat ay may karapatan,” Pabillo said. “Ang may buhay lang ba na tao ay ang mayayaman? Bakit mahihirap lang ang pinapatay?”

(Every person has life, every person has rights…. Are the rich the only ones who have the right to live? Why are they killing only the poor?) –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

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