03/15/2017, 19.22
PHILIPPINES
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Filipino police invites priests to join violent anti-drug operations

The country’s Bishops' Conference rejects the proposal to take part in President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. The Church supports “Whatever strategy there is, for as long as there’s no killing and it is devoid of any corrupt and unjust practice”. Vice President Leni Robredo slums the drug war, which has left Filipinos feeling “hopeless and helpless”. Duterte retaliates against his adversaries.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa reiterated his invitation to the Catholic Church to join the authorities in President Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign.

For months, Filipino bishops have put up a stiff opposition to the "culture of death" of such a policy, with law enforcement responsible for the death of more than 7,000 people in eight months.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier rejected dela Rosa’s proposal for a PNP-Church partnership, saying priests need not join the rebranded police anti-illegal drug operations to support the drug fight.

“Whatever strategy there is, for as long as there’s no killing and it is devoid of any corrupt and unjust practice, the Church supports,” said Fr Jerome Secillano, director of CBCP’s public affairs committee.

The police chief has made it clear that his invitation is open to all religions. The bishops, who have already refused the general’s invitation before, repeated their opposition.

Temporarily put on hold, the war on drug is now set to start again. Speaking about the invitation, Dela Rosa said on 10 March that it was designed so that clerics “could see what really takes place on the ground. It could appease them. It’s difficult if they only criticize”.

He added the presence of churchmen could soften drug suspects to yield peacefully instead of putting up violent resistance. “If they see churchmen with the police and barangay officials, I think they will surrender peacefully,” Dela Rosa explained.

In defending the PNP’s revamped campaign against illegal drugs, PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said the war against drugs aimed at saving the lives of the country’s estimated 1.18 million drug addicts.

Since President Duterte took office at the end of June, police reported the death of nearly 2,500 killed in anti-drug operations, in most cases in self-defence by police.

Another 4,500 people have died in unexplained circumstances. The authorities attribute the deaths to gang rivalries.

Meanwhile, criticism continues to grow across the country against the administration’s violent crackdown on drug trafficking.

Vice President Leni Robredo said today the president’s drug war has left Filipinos feeling “hopeless and helpless,” with trust in the police eroded by thousands of summary executions.

In a video message posted online before a United Nations meeting on extrajudicial killings, Ms Robredo said police were detaining innocent people in a scheme known as “exchange heads”. In this, if officers don’t find a drug suspect, they detain one of his or her relatives instead.

Lastly, she called for greater international scrutiny of President Duterte’s action.

Support for Duterte’s policies, like the drug war and the death penalty, has become a litmus test for the president.

A majority in the House of Representatives removed from government commissions and agencies all those who opposed to the death penalty.

This follows threats by the Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez, who had pledged to retaliate against those who opposed Duterte’s policies.

On 6 March 6, Alvarez proposed to tax Catholic schools, a move analysts see as retaliation against the bishops for their criticism of the administration and capital punishment.

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