03/01/2017, 16.14
PHILIPPINES
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For Manila bishop, Senator De Lima’s arrest is a “political vendetta”

The senator was investigating the president. For Mgr Pabillo, “Duterte and his minions just want to get back at her”. The Filipino Church is united against the culture of death. Its goal is to “educate the people” and “double its efforts to address the problems of society”.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Senator Leila De Lima “got the ire of Duterte by her investigations [. . .]  there is [a] strong perception that Duterte and his minions just want to get back at her. It is a political vendetta,” said Rev Broderick S Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila, in an interview with AsiaNews.

For him, the “Church should speak out – not only to voice opposition to the death policies of the President but more to educate the people” against violence, he added.

Since he took office on 30 June 2016, President Duterte has upended the country’s political life with tensions culminating in Senator de Lima’s arrest on drug trafficking charges on 24 February.

De Lima, a former head of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights and Secretary of Justice, is a fierce opponent of Duterte’s violent anti-drug policies, which have cost the lives of more than 7,000 people in the past eight months ago.

The Catholic Church, while remaining above the political fray, has reiterated its commitment to the defence of a "culture of life" against violence. Many initiatives are underway to tackle the problem of drugs, crime and family breakdown.

We would like to know your impressions about Senator De Lima’s arrest and what you think about her. Is she just a political rival to President Duterte or is she moved by a real humanitarian spirit?

I do not think De Lima is a political rival. She got the ire of Duterte by her investigations on the Extra Judicial Killings and her stand to follow human rights. I do not know the legal reasons for her arrest, but there is strong perception that Duterte and his minions just want to get back at her. It is a political vendetta. This is common in our political scene. The whistle blowers and the investigators become the victim. If there is any crime of De Lima it may be that she allowed the drug trade to continue in the National Penitentiary as the head of the Department of Justice. But then all the former secretaries of the Department of Justice did this. They did nothing to curve the drug trade in the penitentiary for it has been going all the while.

It appears to us there’s a lot of tensions in Filipino society. We would like to know if even the Church in the Philippines is disunited like the society.

I do not see tensions in the Church in the Philippines. There are priests and religious who may support Duterte, I do not hear of any saying openly that EJK is alright. There are people in the Church who prefer not to be vocal because they see that this may not be productive. This would be a matter of strategy.

How does the Church plan to oppose this kind of “death culture” sponsored by Duterte’s government? How do you think the Church can counteract Duterte’s violence?

I personally believe that the Church should speak out - not only to voice opposition to the death policies of the President but more to educate the people so that they may not get the idea that killing is the solution to our problems. The church should use the traditional and social media to bring out her message that death brings only death, that violence does not bring about peace. But the church should also double her efforts to address the problems of society, like the drug problem, criminality and breakdown of families. There are now initiatives done by several diocese and religious to address some of these problems, like the efforts to have community based rehabilitation for drug addicts. The church also lobbies strongly against the re-imposition of death penalty and criminalizing children as young as 9 years old. The church supports the confirmation of environment secretary Gina Lopez for her strong stand on closing down mining companies who pollute the environment.

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