06/07/2018, 13.36
PHILIPPINES
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Police reassure Card Tagle that the war on drugs respects rights

After winning the presidency in July 2016, President Duterte launched a war on illegal narcotics. More than 8,000 suspected drug users and dealers have lost their lives during operations by the security forces. The Catholic Church is among the few who have denounce the killings.

Manila (AsiaNews) – "Human rights violations exist and we cannot accept that," said Fr Edwin A. Gariguez, head of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Caritas Philippines, humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Speaking to AsiaNews, the priest criticised the anti-drug action undertaken by the authorities the day after police chiefs and Card Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, held a brief meeting.

The head of the Philippine national police (PNP), General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday reassured the prelate that the government's war on drugs respects human rights and the rule of law.

On the 25th anniversary of Card Tagle’s ordination as a priest, General Albayalde paid a courtesy call to the Archbishop’s Residence in the capital (picture).

He was accompanied by the new National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Supt Guillermo Eleazar, and five Metro Manila police district directors. During the brief meeting, Albayalde told the archbishop that all of them believe in God and respect human rights.

"The war on drugs is primarily a government operation, whose objective is to fight the spread of drugs in the country,” Fr Gariguez said. “We all agree that action is necessary, but the Church and civil society organisations are opposed to how the authorities are tackling the problem. Violations of human rights do happen.”

"People accused of involvement in drug-related crimes are executed without due process. We cannot accept this because it is contrary to the teachings of the Lord. Most of the victims of extrajudicial killings are among the poorest people in the community, while drug bosses are not punished at all. This is further injustice towards poor people."

After winning the presidency in July 2016, President Duterte launched an unprecedented war on illegal narcotics, promising to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

The Catholic Church is among the few who have denounced the deaths, this despite polls that show the widespread popularity of the Philippine president. In response to criticism of extrajudicial killings, Duterte has repeatedly launched harsh attacks on bishops and priests.

More than 8,000 suspected drug users and dealers have lost their lives during operations by the security forces.

In recent months, the police have confirmed the killing of more than 3,500 people, claiming that they acted in self-defence. According to police, more than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes and thousands more have been murdered in unexplained circumstances.

The government's anti-drug campaign is, however, the subject of legal action, including a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity and a petition to the Philippine Supreme Court.

In addition to denouncing the killings and violations of human rights, the Church has continued her efforts at rehabilitation and reintegration into society of drug addicts.

"Through spiritual and psychological support, we try to help these people overcome addiction and regain their lives," said Fr Gariguez.

In October 2016, the Archdiocese of Manila launched Sanlakbay, a programme subsequently adopted by numerous dioceses in the country, in collaboration with local governments and the police.

It stems from the involvement of parish communities in providing drug addicts with counselling, spiritual support and even employment opportunities.

The work of the Filipino Church against drug addiction has also received the appreciation and support of Pope Francis.

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