MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma asked priests in his archdiocese to open churches for drug recovery programs, as President Rodrigo Duterte wages a bloody war on illegal drugs.
Ledesma, however, condemned extrajudicial killings as a way to address the drug crisis.
"I am asking all pastors in the Archdiocese to open available facilities such as churches and parish halls for community-based recovery programs," Ledesma said in a pastoral letter dated August 4.
Ledesma also urged Catholic groups to join these efforts to "accompany" those recovering from drug addiction.
"The problem with drugs has reached the level of a calamity and an emergency situation. It is systemic, having its roots in poverty, woundedness, greed, and abuse of power. It has become a plague afflicting the whole society," the archbishop said.
He then pointed out: "If there is a positive side to the current war on drugs, it is the fact that thousands have surrendered and hundreds more arrested and put to jail. The problem with the latter is that our jails have become extremely congested since they were built for a limited number of detainees only; but now the number has been multiplied many times over."
Opposing extrajudicial killings
Ledesma, on the other hand, addressed the spate of killings associated with the war on drugs.
He explained: "We want to be proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus who said, 'I have come that you may have life and have life to the full.' Thus, while we commit ourselves positively to these tasks, we uncompromisingly uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life. We are opposed to any form of extrajudicial killings as a means of addressing the issue of drug use."
"We cannot solve a crime by committing another crime," the archbishop added.
In another pastoral letter on May 3, Ledesma slammed Duterte for more than 1,400 extrajudicial killings when he was mayor of Davao City.
The following Catholic groups and individuals have taken turns in slamming the recent killings in the Philippines:
The Philippine National Police on Friday, August 12, said they had killed 550 drug suspects while arresting nearly 8,000 others since after the May election.
However, ABS-CBN News said more than 400 other people have been killed since then by shadowy assassins who leave cardboard signs beside their victims accusing them of narcotics crimes. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.