Bishop David on drug users: They're drug victims, too

MANILA, Philippines – Is the Catholic Church concerned only about drug users and not the victims of drug abusers? 

In his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte complained that Church leaders and human rights advocates raise "howls of protest" only against "errant" law enforcers, not "drug lordism, drug dealing, and drug pushing." 

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David stressed, however, that "neither the Church nor human rights advocates are saying that we should allow illegal drugs to simply proliferate in our country."

"Of course we are also concerned about the victims of drug abusers. But the victims of illegal drugs include the drug users themselves!" David said on Tuesday, July 24, a day after Duterte's SONA.

David, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, is one of the strongest voices against the culture of impunity in the country. He describes his diocese – composed of southern Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas – as "killing fields." 

David pointed out after Duterte's SONA: "Should not the government focus its fight against the big time suppliers, than on the poor drug users? How come the supply of illegal drugs remains steady in spite of all the killings?"

"Is it not obvious that addicts and small-time peddlers and pushers are not the root cause of the drug problem? Isn't it obvious that they are also victims, and that they also need to be saved, not killed?" he said.

"The fight against illegal drugs must indeed be relentless, but the killings – either by the police or by masked vigilantes – must be stopped! This will remain as our stubborn and relentless plea," he added.

David also criticized Duterte for telling critics during his SONA, "Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives."

"Such a statement implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives!" David said.

Like David, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo commented, "There should be no separation between human lives and human rights." –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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