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Eddie Villanueva slams drug killings, but says Duterte not to blame

Mara Cepeda
Eddie Villanueva slams drug killings, but says Duterte not to blame
The evangelical pastor, now one of the House of Representatives' deputy speakers, says 'scalawag' policemen are behind the drug killings

MANILA, Philippines – To mark National Bible Day on Monday, February 3, House Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva, founder of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) church, slammed drug-related killings in the country, but said he believes President Rodrigo Duterte is not accountable for the deaths. 

In a lengthy privilege speech, Villanueva blamed “scalawag” policemen for the bloody drug war being waged by the Duterte government. (READ: Brother Eddie slams EJKs, blames ‘scalawag’ police)

The pastor-turned-lawmaker cited Duterte’s pronouncement in his presidential inauguration speech in 2016, when Duterte said his adherence to due process and the rule of law was “non-compromising.” 

“No less than the President of the Philippines released this national presidential policy. Unfortunately, there were scalawags in the police system who violated this presidential pronouncement of our President,” Villanueva said. And therefore I would say that the lawmaking body in this country must really do something rather than let this violation of the presidential pronouncement continue.”

Villanueva failed to mention that the President himself has repeatedly given “shoot-to-kill” orders against alleged drug users, often congratulating policemen for the deaths of drug suspects.

According to the police, more than 6,000 people have been killed in anti-drug operations. But human rights groups estimate the number to be around 27,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Duterte has never denied his preference for violence in wiping out the drug problem.

Rule of law?

But Villanueva insisted on blaming errant cops for the killings, echoing a theme in his October 2017 speech, when he also blamed policemen for the drug war deaths.

“We support the resolve of the President to get rid of the drug menace in the country. However, this policy against drugs should not be at the expense of the rule of law,” Villanueva had said in a press conference in 2017 to mark the JIL’s 39th anniversary.

Villanueva’s privilege speech on Monday also marked the first time that he condemned the drug-related killings ever since he was elected congressman of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party list in the 2019 elections. 

Last year, Villanueva made headlines after he opposed the bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, saying it would supposedly “threaten” the freedoms of those outside the LGBTQ+ community.

Appeal to House

On Monday, the Deputy Speaker appealed to the House members – most of whom are Duterte allies – to help stop the killings in the country.

“Mga kapwa ko kinatawan sa Kongreso, kailangan may gawin po tayo. ‘Wag nating payagang maging laganap ang patayan sa ating bayan, kahit anupamang dahilan,” said Villanueva.

(To my co-representatives here in Congress, we must do something. Let us not allow killings to be rampant in our country, regardless of the reason.) 

“Remember, life is valuable. The Bible teaches [us that] we were created by God in His image and according to His likeness. Killing life outside the due process of the law is murder,” he added.

Amnesty International said on January 30 that there is still no “meaningful accountability” for the thousands of drug users and pushers killed in the name of Duterte’s deadly drug war.

In July 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that tasked United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet to write a comprehensive report on the situation in the Philippines. 

The International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor is also conducting a preliminary examination into the human rights situation in the Philippines and is expected to make a recommendation sometime this year. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.