Filipino bishops call for an end to unpunished murders, demand justice and unity

President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has led to a bloodbath with no respect for the law and democracy. Unpunished, police and vigilantes have killed more than 2,000 alleged drug dealers. “We must not give up,” said the president of the Bishops’ Conference. God will hear the “prayer for healing of the nation”. For religious superiors, “Evil prospers where good men are silent”.

Manila (AsiaNews) – A wave of violence is sweeping the Philippines. “The killings continue to rise. The divisions seem to widen even more. The indifference to the violations of the Commandments of God is spreading.” However, “We must not give up said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.

Since he came to power after last May’s elections, President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a campaign against drug dealers. As laudable as the initiative may be, the campaign is being carried out with the methods of a military dictatorship.

Impunity seems to define the mandate of the police in case of the "accidental death" of drug dealers, whilst more and more death squads are killing to earn “unofficial” rewards from local authorities.

Civil society groups complain that 2,000 people have been killed so far.

Statements by the Philippines’ police chief Ronald Dela Rosa are indicative of this climate of violence. In a speech aired on television, he called on drug users to kill traffickers and burn their homes.

“Why don’t you give them a visit, pour gasoline on their homes and set these on fire to register your anger,” said Dela Rosa.

“They’re all enjoying your money, money that destroyed your brain. You know who the drug lords are. Would you like to kill them? Go ahead. Killing them is allowed because you are the victim.”

Although it considers action against drug addiction necessary, the Catholic Church has strongly condemned this campaign.

On 28 June, the Bishops’ Conference issued an appeal for justice and legality addressed to the members of the armed forces and national security agencies, asking them to uphold the law in the country.

Today Mgr Villegas also issued a “prayer for healing of the nation”, calling for unity, solution to crimes and corruption, and compassion for those who died “in the present purge.”

For the prelate, prayer is the greatest weapon. “We trust in the mercy of God to answer our prayers for healing,” said Villegas. He will heed our prayers. We “Believe in miracles and the power of a praying people. When we pray together, we are strong with the strength of God”.

Catholic schools in the archdiocese will recite the prayer before the start of classes in every classroom between 30 August and 7 September.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) on Thursday came out in support of the bishops.

“We are alarmed at the silence of the government, groups and majority of the people in the face of these killings,” said in a statement Father Cielito Almazan and Sister Regina Kuizon, AMRSP co-chairmen.

Ubi boni tacent malum prosperat. Evil prospers where good men are silent. Is this lack of public outcry a tacit approval of what is happening? Is it fear that prevents people from speaking out? Whatever the reason, this problem, if it remains unchecked, leads to a culture of impunity”.

“As religious and consecrated persons, we believe that the wheels of justice should take their course following the proper procedure and operate within the bounds of the law,” it added.

“We demand that the concerned government agencies continue apprehending those involved in drug trafficking but avoiding extrajudicial killings, and pursue and apprehend vigilantes who carry out such illegal actions”.