09/28/2016, 14.12
PHILIPPINES
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Church and government together to rehabilitate drug addicts in the Philippines

The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and local authorities plan to work together on a programme to help prevent and treat drug abuse. Although the Church does “not have the facilities for scientific rehabilitation,” said Archbishop Ledesma, it can provide “spiritual healing”, adding “we cannot solve a crime by committing another crime”.

Cagayan de Oro (AsiaNews/CBCP) – The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines, has joined local authorities to support a programme for the rehabilitation for addicts.

For Mgr Antonio Ledesma, the local archbishop, the Church can provide spiritual support even though it is not equipped for this sort of activity. At the same time, he condemned the summary executions of drug dealers and addicts since one crime cannot be countered by another.

The reference is to the "zero tolerance" policy against drug trafficking promised by President Duterte in the recent election campaign that has turned into a bloodbath for suspected criminals after his victory at the polls.

More than 3,000 people are known to have died. Some civil society groups say the number is twice as high. No investigations have been launched against police or vigilantes who often fire on unarmed people.

The national police chief has even urged addicts to set fire to the homes of drug lords, saying that they would have impunity. In his view, they are victims who should not be punished.

Archbishop Ledesma said the ‘Coalition for a Drug-free Society’ was formed with the City of Cagayan de Oro, the Department of Health, and various civil society groups in order to raise awareness of the harm drugs cause and to rehabilitate those who use them.

The prelate said the coalition’s advocacy has three main components, namely prevention, intervention, and community support. The Church can do its part in this area.

“The Church will [take part in] the community support because we do not have the facilities for scientific rehabilitation,” Mgr Ledesma explained.

In fact, “we can give community support in terms of counseling, spiritual healing, and also making available our parish halls and educational centers.”

Referring to the crackdown, the archbishop also noted that “We cannot solve a crime by committing another crime”.

Mgr Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' conference of the Philippines and archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop, also spoke out against this, appealing to the humanity of law enforcement in a prayer he made public in order “to heal the wounds of society".

Other Catholic leaders spoke out in the matter as well, including Cardinal Tagle. Manila’s archbishop said that the Church would open its facilities to drug users, inviting them to break free from drugs.

He also slammed drug dealers. For him, “Selling illegal substances and pushing young people into the habit is another form of murder. You kill their dreams, minds and social and family relationships".

However, when dealing with offenders, "we must make an effort so that they can have a new life and stand again on their own two feet."

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