MANILA, Philippines – Priests and brothers running two of the Philippines' biggest Catholic schools joined the growing number of Filipinos against the killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
Leaders of the Society of Jesus, the religious order that runs the Ateneo schools in the Philippines, and of the De La Salle brothers, who run the La Salle schools in the country, issued separate statements against the drug war killings.
Father Antonio Moreno, head of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines, said the "heartless killing" of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos proves that the drug menace is an evil "that attacks our humanity."
Delos Santos is a Grade 11 student who was killed by the police in a drug raid because he allegedly fought back, but witnesses said he was framed up. His death served as an eye-opener to the abuses in Duterte's anti-drug campaign. (READ: What took me so long to condemn extrajudicial killings)
"We cannot build the Philippine nation on the cadavers of the Filipino people," Moreno said in a statement on Thursday, August 24.
Father Jose Ramon Villarin, president of the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a separate statement that the nation is "possessed by the dark forces of discord."
On the part of the De La Salle brothers, Lasallian East Asia District Auxiliary Visitor Brother Jose Mari Jimenez wrote a letter to the Lasallians on Monday, August 21.
In his statement, Jimenez said, "I am inviting you to raise our voices in silent protest over the deaths that have gone unmourned since our government undertook its efforts to eradicate the menace of illegal drugs from our communities."
Brother Armin Luistro, president of De La Salle Philippines and former Philippine education chief, made a separate call for prayer.
Luistro proposed "a minute of silence every night at 8:24 pm to remember Kian Loyd delos Santos and all innocent victims of merciless deaths in our land," according to a note shared by Villarin.
Below is the full statement of Father Antonio Moreno, provincial superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines:
File photo courtesy of Rick Flores
It is with deep concern for the welfare of our nation that the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus joins His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in appealing to the "consciences of those manufacturing and selling illegal drugs to stop this activity" and "to the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives."
We agree that the menace of illegal drugs is real and destructive. The imperative to defeat this evil does not belong to the President alone, the Philippine National Police, and the instrumentalities of human government. It belongs to us all.
The evil that attacks the human with the power of the demonic, should unite us, not divide us. Battling this enemy, we learn how ineffectual, how flawed, our weapons are. Instead of turning our weapons on one another, we must unite, coordinate, and allow good to ally with good; we must fight this enemy together.
Truly, the menace of drugs is not just a political or criminal issue. It is evil that attacks our humanity, turns human beings into zombies, policemen into murderers, criminals into lords, and the poor into the victims of their own security forces.
The heartless killing of Kian de los Santos proves this. We cannot fight evil with guns and bullets alone. This evil we must fight with insight, cooperation, cunning, the enlightened use of political and economic power, self-sacrifice, prayer and God’s grace.
It is in this spirit that we welcome the call of Cardinal Tagle and the Archdiocese of Manila to a multi-sectoral dialogue. We need to come together to understand the situation in depth. We need to understand why the soul of the war on drugs is a human soul, and why the enemy of this war is not human rights, but lack of commitment to human rights. We need to understand why we cannot fight for human beings by denying them their rights.
In a society where the human has so lightly lost his soul to corruption, hedonism, and disrespect for the human person, we need to understand how the poor are illegal drugs' worst victims, addicted, trafficked, then shot by the guns drug money buys.
We need to understand how denying the international drug cartels their markets does not mean killing the poor who are their victims, but reforming the structure which keep the poor poor.
We need to understand that building the drug-free, smart, socially-just religiously diverse society envisioned by the Duterte administration needs patient multi-sectoral collaboration of good people collaborating with good people.
We cannot build the Philippine nation on the cadavers of the Filipino people.
In this spirit of dialogue, where it is clear that the rule of law and the respect for human rights thwart evil, the recommendations of our Ateneo de Manila Human Rights Center pertinent to extrajudicial killings and Operation Tokhang Reloaded might be seriously considered.
Truly, we must conquer evil with good. Though we wish to be in solidarity with all victims of injustice, we must move beyond expressions of outrage to constructive action.
Teach the youth, wealthy or poor, in our families, schools and our communities, about the evil of illegal drugs; engage them so they are helped to overcome bad habits and engage in good.Join groups that are involved in rehabilitation; many of these are diocesan or parish based; many of them are Civil Society Organizations. Capacitate ourselves to get involved. Join groups that partner with government to strengthen our security forces' commitment to rights-based policing. Involve ourselves in research that studies the drug trade in the Philippines. Work together with the Church, government and CSOs to truly defeat the drug menace in the Philippines. Use privileged power and information to win this war.
Where the fullness of life that the Lord came to bring us (Jn 10:10) is not to be undermined by the evil of drugs, we must be "as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves." (Mt. 10:16). Some demons can be expelled "only by prayer and fasting" (Mt. 17:21). But prayer and fasting should also lead us to come together in the power of the Spirit to overcome this evil.
Below is the full statement of Brother Jose Mari Jimenez, auxiliary visitor of the Lasallian East Asia District:
Screen grab from De La Salle Philippines' YouTube page
I am inviting you to raise our voices in silent protest over the deaths that have gone unmourned since our government undertook its efforts to eradicate the menace of illegal drugs from our communities.
We mourn for those who have lost their lives on mere suspicion of being drug addicts and drug pushers. We mourn for those who, because they are too poor and too afraid, cannot fight for their right to life and due process. We mourn for those whose lives have been reduced to statistics and who are now mere proofs to demonstrate the power of those in authority to procure for us, through whatever means, their twisted vision of an orderly society.
We mourn for the loss of our rights when we allow the police to enter our homes without warrants of arrest. We are slowly witnessing an order where we are being seduced to secede to those in authority our basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. The promise of peace and order and well-being is a sham for what this usurpation of our rights has obtained for us is nothing but fear.
We mourn for ourselves, when we allow our vision for our nation to grow dim. When, because of our exasperation with the long march to authentic freedom, have allowed ourselves to be seduced by quick results. Authentic transformation cannot be the result of handing over to one entity, our responsibility to create the kinds of communities we long to see. If we truly desire peace and well-being in our communities, we must see ourselves as its principal authors. Let us, in our mourning, re-affirm our right and our responsibility to be the agents of the change we want to see.
I enjoin you all to keep vigil then over our nation’s future. Let us offer a minute of silence every 8:24 pm (or 8:24 am during school days) in our communities as we mourn the many deaths that have befallen our nation. In our communities, let us create a wave of awareness over the need to guard our basic rights and freedoms.
Let us courageously re-affirm our conviction in our identity as a people of power – as a people who can create and will what is good for our country. Let us stand side-by-side again so that we will not have to live in fear. Let us refuse to bequeath to our children a nation deprived of a vision of its better self.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at email@example.com.