CBCP slams ‘vigilantism’ amid Duterte crime war

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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CBCP slams ‘vigilantism’ amid Duterte crime war
(UPDATED) 'God never gave up on us. We have no right giving up on ourselves or on our brothers and sisters,' CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas says

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday, June 20, slammed “vigilantism” in the face of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s war against crime in the country.

“God never gave up on us. We have no right giving up on ourselves or on our brothers and sisters,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

Villegas added: “Jesus came to restore the harmony of Paradise. Let no one ever raise his hand against his brother or sister, for the blood that is shed – even if it be the blood of one we suspect of crime – cries to heaven for justice!”

He explained that bishops “are disturbed” that more and more suspected drug peddlers, pushers, and criminals “have been shot, supposedly because they resist arrest.” One of them, Alfie “Buddy” Turado, was reportedly shot dead after allegedly trying to grab a gun from a policeman inside a police vehicle.

Duterte has said law enforcers can shoot suspected criminals who resist arrest.

Villegas also said it “is equally disturbing that vigilantism seems on the rise.”

He cited media reports “of bodies, apparently of homicide or murder victims, showing up on whom placards announcing their supposed crimes are writ large.”

‘Report all forms of vigilantism’

The CBCP then offered the following moral guidelines for law enforcers:

  • “One can ‘shoot to kill’ solely on the ground of legitimate self-defense or the defense of others. Law and jurisprudence have sufficiently spelled out the elements of self-defense, and for purposes of Catholic morality, it is necessary to emphasize that you, as law enforcers, can ‘shoot to kill’ only first, when there is unjust provocation; second, when there is a real, not only conjectural, threat to your life or to the lives and safety of others; third, when there is due proportion between the threat posed and your own use of a firearm aimed at the threatening subject.”
  • “To kill a suspect outright, no matter how much surveillance work may have antecedently been done on the suspect, is not morally justified. Suspicion is never the moral equivalent of certainty, and punishment may be inflicted only on the ground of certainty.”
  • “When the arrest of a suspect is attempted, and the suspect endeavors to flee or to escape from the scene, every attempt by non-lethal means should be made to stop the suspect from fleeing and if shot at, every attempt should be made to spare the fleeing suspect from death, unless the escape of such a victim clearly and immediately puts others in harm’s way.”
  • “It is never morally permissible to receive reward money to kill another. When bounty-hunting takes the form of seeking out suspects of crime, killing them, then presenting proof of the death of the object of the hunt to the offeror of the reward, one is hardly any different from a mercenary, a gun-for-hire, no matter that the object of one’s manhunt should be a suspected offender.”
  • “It is the moral duty of every Catholic, every Christian, in fact, to report all forms of vigilantism of which they have personal knowledge. For greater reason is it a duty to keep away from any participation and any form of cooperation with vigilantes and vigilante movements.”

In the CBCP statement, Villegas also reminded law enforcers that society counts on them for justice and fairness. 

He said bishops, too, “beg our prosecutors and judges to remain firm in their consecration to justice.” He explained that “there can be no greater insult to the Creator than to use the gifts of intelligence, discernment, and one’s success at legal studies” for evil ends.

This CBCP statement comes as the Philippines is getting a taste of the anti-crime war that Duterte has vowed to launch once he assumes the presidency.

Across the nation police have already reported killing more than 20 alleged drug suspects in recent days, egged on by Duterte who has urged them to begin his war on crime even before he takes office on June 30. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com