MANILA, Philippines – Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo denounced extrajudicial killings on Monday, July 25, in an unprecedented Mass that coincided with President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"Ang extrajudicial killings ay paggawa ng bagay na hindi ayon sa batas. 'Yan ay krimen. Kaya hindi mababawasan ang krimen sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng krimen," Pabillo said in a Mass to pray for victims of extrajudicial killings.
(To do extrajudicial killings is to do something that is against the law. That’s a crime. We cannot suppress crime by committing another crime.)
The extrajudicial killings have been linked to Duterte's war against illegal drugs. Referring to the victims of these killings, he said, "Tao pa rin 'yun." (They’re still persons.)
He added that there’s no proof that the slain suspects actually engage in drug trafficking. “Wala namang nagsabi sa atin niyan, maliban sa nakalagay na karatula sa kanila,” he said. (No one told us that, aside from the cardboards placed on top of them.)
At the same time, Pabillo showed concern for the family members of victims of extrajudicial killings.
"Kahit na totoo na sila ay drug pusher at nakagawa ng masama sa ibang tao, paano naman ang kanilang mga pamilya? Sila rin ngayon ay ginawan ng masama," he said.
(Even if it’s true that they’re drug pushers and they did something wrong to other people, what about their families? They themselves have been done wrong.)
The bishop asked, "Maitutuwid ba natin ang masama sa pamamagitan ng masama?" (Can we correct evil by doing evil?)
Duterte: Priests can't stop death
During his SONA on Monday, Duterte defended the killings of suspected drug pushers.
Duterte said in his SONA: "Kayo namang hindi pa bungog diyan, hindi pa pumasok 'yang mga droga, e kung ayaw ninyong mamatay, ayaw ninyong masaktan, huwag kayong umasa diyan sa mga pari, pati human rights. Hindi nakakapigil 'yan ng kamatayan."
(As for you who aren’t yet groggy, who haven’t gotten involved in drugs, if you don’t want to die, if you don’t want to get hurt, do not count on those priests, even those in human rights. They cannot stop death.)
The Mass on Monday – with the theme "Huwag Kang Papatay" (Thou Shall Not Kill) – is the first major movement of Catholics in response to Duterte's bloody war against illegal drugs. (READ: Mass held for 'sacrificial victims' in war vs drugs)
Estimates show at least 300 people have died in the war against drugs. This figure includes those killed in legitimate police operations and those in extrajudicial killings as well.
Leaders of Catholic nuns, the president of De La Salle Philippines, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, among others, have voiced their concern over the killings since Duterte won the presidency.
Former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña on Monday said killing suspected drug traffickers will not win Duterte’s war against drugs.
La Viña said in a pre-SONA analysis on Rappler: "We all agree that the war on drugs won't be won by extrajudicial killings, or even death penalty, or even legitimate encounters. The war against drugs is also a war on poverty, war on powerlessness." – with reports from Rambo Talabong and Janelle Paris/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 firstname.lastname@example.org.