MANILA, Philippines – The president of De La Salle Philippines, a network of educators running 16 Catholic schools across the country, slammed the spate of killings that started after the landslide victory of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a pastoral statement on Thursday, July 21, De La Salle Philippines president Brother Jose Mari Jimenez said, "As a Catholic and a Filipino, I am deeply disturbed by the spate of killings that have attended this administration's pronouncements regarding its anti-crime and illegal-drugs campaign."
Citing media reports, Jimenez said 408 people have died in drug- and crime-related killings from May 10, the day after elections, to July 15, half a month after Duterte took office. This number continues to rise. (READ: Global group of judges, lawyers to Duterte: Probe drug-related killings)
"While these figures are alarming in themselves, what troubles me even more as an educator is the absence of a significant public outcry against the blatant contempt for the human life and the rule of law that these extrajudicial killings represent," Jimenez said.
To support his arguments, he cited a February 21 statement by Pope Francis against the death penalty: "The commandment, 'You shall not kill,' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty....It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal."
"Behind these prophetic words is the vision of a God who refuses to give up on anyone, a God whose mercy embraces all without distinction," Jimenez said.
Jimenez is one of the first high-profile Catholic leaders to speak out against the spate of killings in the face of Duterte’s anti-crime war. One of the schools under De La Salle Philippines, which he leads, is the De La Salle University in Manila, a leading university in Asia.
Ahead of Jimenez's statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on June 20 also denounced "vigilantism" in the country.
Engage authorities 'not as adversaries'
In his statement on Thursday, Jimenez also pointed out that the recent killings show "how desperate many people have become in the face of the issues of drugs and criminality."
Jimenez, however, reminded Filipinos, "You cannot build a culture that respects life while relying principally on the instruments of death."
He added that it "is a mistake to believe that we can create a peaceful society by denying those suspected of wrongdoing their fundamental rights to life and to due legal process."
"Thus, while we resonate with our government's desire to address in a resolute way the problems of crime, drug-addiction, and corruption, we need to ensure that this is done within the framework of the law and the principles of human dignity and the common good enshrined in both our Constitution and in Catholic Social Teaching," he said.
To achieve this, Jimenez said schools "should critically engage civil authorities to insure that effective solutions to these social ills be pursued in the just and right way."
Jimenez said, "We need to engage civil authorities, not as adversaries, but as partners in building communities that reflect the values of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace enshrined in our Constitution."
He also urged Lasallian schools to "teach young people to reflect critically and equip them with the values and skills they need to help create a society that upholds human dignity, solidarity and the common good."
"Let us not allow violence to rule us but in every circumstance be vigilant and zealous in upholding the dignity and rights of all as befits responsible citizens and followers of Christ," Jimenez said. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.