MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday, February 5, denounced the "reign of terror" in poor communities as President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs kills at least 7,000 people in the Philippines.
"We, your bishops, are deeply concerned due to many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs," CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in their strongest statement yet against the drug-related killings in the Philippines.
"An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account," Villegas added on behalf of the CBCP. (FULL TEXT: CBCP pastoral letter on drug-related deaths)
The war on drugs has killed at least 7,080 people as of January 31, or 7 months since Duterte took office. Up to 4,000 of them died in extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings. Many of them come from poor communities.
The CBCP statement echoed the sentiments of many Filipinos who, according to Amnesty International adviser Matt Wells, "repeatedly described the 'war on drugs' as a war against the poor."
While released only on Sunday, the CBCP statement was signed by Villegas on January 30.
The CBCP issued this statement after its plenary assembly, a twice-a-year meeting where the Philippines' more than 80 bishops discuss pressing issues concerning the Catholic Church and Philippine society.
The CBCP directed all priests in the Philippines to read this statement in all Sunday Masses on February 5.
Helping victims of addicts, too
In their statement, Villegas added, "An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong. It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that (according to them) needs to be done."
Villegas then enumerated 7 teachings that support their stance:
At the same time, the CBCP indirectly addressed criticism that Catholic priests and bishops have no right to criticize the drug-related killings because they themselves have their own shortcomings. (READ: Bishop on Duterte tirades: 'Sick doctor still cures others')
Duterte has often slammed Catholic priests and bishops for their supposed hypocrisy, as he called the Catholic Church "full of shit."
Villegas said: "We in the Church will continue to speak against evil even as we acknowledge and repent [for] our own shortcomings. We will do this even if it will bring persecution upon us because we are all brothers and sisters responsible for each other."
He also said that the Catholic Church "will help drug addicts" and also "stand in solidarity" with "the victims of drug addicts." (READ: Church in Bulacan runs 27-year-old drug rehab program)
Villegas said, "Let us not allow fear to reign and keep us silent." – Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com