Bishop Pablo Siongco Virgilio David of Kalookan has urged the Duterte administration to refocus its efforts in the war on drugs. (photo by Angie de Silva)
A Catholic bishop in Manila says a sharp fall in President Rodrigo Duterte's approval ratings was directly attributable to his war on drugs and not criticism from "squawking" church leaders.
A quarterly survey conducted by independent pollster, Social Weather Stations, showed Duterte's net satisfaction rating in September plummeted by 18 points from 66 early in June. His trust rating also declined to 60 points from 75 points over the same period.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pantaleon Alvarez, said that Catholic bishops were to blame for the plunge in Duterte's ratings. He criticized the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines for "squawking" against the government's crackdown.
Alvarez said the bishops should stop making noise and instead clean their own ranks of pedophile priests and address other church scandals.
But Bishop Pablo Siongco Virgilio David of Kalookan rejected the criticism and said the spate of killings under Duterte's war on drugs was the main reason for the plunge in the Philippine leader's ratings.
"The fall in the ratings is not due to us church leaders, but to the extrajudicial killings themselves," said Bishop David, prelate of the Manila suburb where most of the killings have happened in recent months.
Bishop David, the incoming vice president of the bishops' conference, said if the Duterte administration wanted to bounce back in the polls, the government should stop the killings. "If the government wants its ratings to go up, all it needs to do is stop the killings and focus instead on the healing of people with substance use disorder," said the bishop.
He said the ratings drop "probably indicates that many of the people who support the government's drug war do not agree with the way it is being fought."
Bishop David urged the government to refocus its fight against illegal drugs on drug lords, suppliers, manufacturers, and protectors of the illicit trade who are in government. He also said the government should start addressing addiction as a health and poverty issue because "most of the casualties in the drug war are coming from the urban poor communities."
On Oct. 11, Duterte announced that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency will become the sole agency in charge of his war on drugs.
The president's order came on the heels of growing outrage over reported police abuses in the government's crackdown on illegal drugs.
Human rights groups estimate up to 12,000 people have been killed in the government's war against narcotics which started in mid-2016.