Mass held for 'sacrificial victims' in war vs drugs

MANILA, Philippines – While President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Catholics gathered at the San Vicente de Paul Church in Ermita, Manila, to offer Mass for victims of recent extrajudicial killings.

Up to 500 people, most of them students of Adamson University, came to hear Mass on Monday, July 25, when Duterte addressed both houses of Congress for the first time.

Presided over by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Mass marked the launch of the "Huwag Kang Papatay" (Thou Shall Not Kill) campaign initiated by the Archdiocese of Manila.

This is the first major movement of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Manila against recent extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

The killings come as Duterte wages a bloody war against illegal drugs. This war has killed at least 300 people – a figure that includes those slain in legitimate police operations and those who died through extrajudicial means. 

In his homily on Monday, Pabillo condemned extrajudicial killings in the war against illegal drugs, saying crime cannot stop crime.

Fr Atilano Fajardo, minister of public affairs of the Manila Archdiocese, described targets of summary killing as "sacrificial victims" whose deaths will make the anti-drug war seem like a success.

'Suspects only'

The Mass for these victims on Monday was "very solemn" and "very profound", Focolare Movement member Grace Ceniza said. 

"Prayer is very powerful," Ceniza said. "In the Mass, we unite our prayer to Jesus. It is Jesus who is praying, not only us."

Adamson University student council official Keith Baluyut, for his part, said students are one with the victims of extrajudicial killings.

"Walang sinumang puwedeng kumuha ng buhay natin kung hindi ang Diyos lamang. 'Wag tayong matakot ipaglaban ng ating karapatan," Baluyut said. (There is no one who can get our lives besides God. Let us not be afraid to fight for our rights.)

Baluyut added that regardless of religion, his fellow students "know that there is a right, and that right is to live in this world."

Jose Que, a lay minister from Navotas who came to the church straight from the Batasang Pambansa, said that the victims were "suspects only." 

Que added: "Kapag bubuhayin nila ang death penalty, isama na nila ang plunderer, itong mga mayayaman na ito – sina Enrile, Binay. Kung talagang isasakatotohanan nila. E 'di sila unahin nila."

(If they will revive the death penalty, include plunderers, the wealthy ones – Enrile and Binay. This is if they will make it a reality. Let them be first.) –

Janelle Paris and Rambo Talabong are students from Ateneo de Manila University. They are both Rappler Interns.

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.