The killings are the “epitome of the aggressive campaign of the present government against illegal drugs,” Fr Gariguez said. The “President is determined to push for his violent and barbaric method in waging the war on drugs. He cannot be swayed, even by the moral admonitions of the Church which he admittedly despises.”
Manila (AsiaNews) - From the outset, President Duterte's strategy was “to exterminate the suspects before they are brought to a court of law,” said Fr Edwin A. Gariguez (picture 2), executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Caritas Philippines, the charity arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
AsiaNews interviewed the clergyman about on the recent intensification of operations by the Philippines National Police. Last Tuesday, security forces killed 32 people suspected of involvement in drug-related crimes and arrested another 109 during a raid in Bulacan (40 kilometres north of Manila).
The next day, another 26 people were killed in separate operations in the capital. The PNP admitted that the Bulacan operations was one of the deadliest. President Duterte praised the result, saying that the killings were “good” for the country.
Still, his war on drugs is becoming more and more controversial. Since it started in July of last year, thousands of extrajudicial killings have taken place. Some senators, including JV Ejercito, a well-known ally of administration, is now strongly concerned by the alarming rise in killings.
For her part, Vice President Maria Leonor Robedo is outraged. "Killings like these show that there are people who have put the law into their own hands. They thwart constitutional processes which ensure that everyone gets justice.”
The full interview with Fr Edwin A. Gariguez follows.
What do you think of anti-drug operations like the one that took place in Bulacan?
The killings of suspected drug users and pushers in Bulacan is an epitome of the aggressive campaign of the present government against illegal drugs, under the leadership of President Duterte. The strategy is to exterminate the suspects before they are brought to a court of law. This case of killing of 32 suspects in separate operations in just one day is gruesome and utterly condemnable. The impunity of how the numerous killings can be committed or condoned by the police force is truly alarming.
Mr. Duterte said: "The ones who died in Bulacan, 32, in a massive raid, that is good. We could just kill another 32 everyday, then maybe we could reduce what ails this country". What do you think of the President's comments about the killings?
President Duterte in his statement is implicitly encouraging the execution of drug users/pushers. This has been clearly his preferred strategy from the very start, which he has publicly pronounced over and over. The Church has several times condemned this and taken position against extrajudicial killings. But the President is determined to push for his violent and barbaric method in waging the war on drugs. He cannot be swayed, even by the moral admonitions of the Church which he admittedly despises.
In your opinion, is the presidential war on drugs working?
We all agree that the problem of illegal drugs should be addressed decisively by the government authorities. But not to the point of killing the culprits and suspected drug addicts. We have our moral principle that the end cannot justify the means. There have been several studies that show that this kind of method does not work. In a Christian country, the massacre of the so-called criminals should be deplored and strongly denounced.
Could you tell us about your diocese's activities and programmes for the poor and addicts?
The Church in several dioceses had been actively involved in providing assistance for the rehabilitation of drug users through counselling and comprehensive programmes for healing process in many of the centres established by the dioceses. We collaborate also with other CSOs (civil society organisations) to document cases of extrajudicial killings and cases of human rights violations committed in the pursuit of the war on drugs.