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Bishops call for deeper analysis on drug killings

Filipino prelates question why the poor seem to be targeted, not the kingpins

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: August 22, 2016 09:09 AM GMT

Updated: August 22, 2016 09:10 AM GMT

Bishops call for deeper analysis on drug killings

A Filipino woman lights a candle outside a church in Manila as a show of support for the call for respect of human rights in the government's campaign against illegal drugs. (Photo by Vincent Go) 

Catholic and Protestant bishops in the Philippines have called for a "deeper analysis" of the spate of killings in the country that have been linked to the government's anti-narcotics campaign.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum warned that the killings will only "exacerbate" the problem of illegal drugs.

The prelates also noted that most of those killed are "small time and poor people."

Meanwhile, five police officers and several town mayors and officials recently named by President Rodrigo Duterte as either as drug users or protectors of drug syndicates "seem to be getting a special privilege; they remain very much alive," they said.

The Philippine National Police estimates that more than a thousand drug users and peddlers have been killed since the government intensified its anti-illegal drugs drive on July 1.

"While we believe and support President Duterte's war on drugs, there is a need for deeper analysis as to why the drug problem is thriving and who benefits from this," the bishops said in an Aug. 22 statement.

The church leaders said there is a need for the government "to examine the correctness of its approach in eliminating this menace."


Senators urged to find answers

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila urged legislators taking part in a Senate investigation into the killings to "stand firm because the people are looking for answers."

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The prelate also called on Duterte to stop the use of "dirty tricks to bring down someone’s character and credibility, especially those who are pushing the inquiry."

Bishop Pabillo said the president should allow a proper investigation "to extract the truth and for the people to know."

"To kill without due process is immoral," he said, adding that Duterte "should not use his position to become a bully or to hurt other people."

On Aug. 22, Senator Leila De Lima, chairwoman of the Senate justice and human rights committee, stressed the need to determine which abuses were committed by law enforcers and vigilante groups.

"I strongly believe extrajudicial or extralegal killings, whether perpetrated by the state or by non-state actors, must stop. Blatant disregard for human life has to stop," said the senator.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the national police, warned, however, that the congressional inquiry might affect the government's drive against illegal drugs.

"Frankly I have never seen anything on a scale of the current anti-illegal drugs campaign under this administration," said Lacson.


Not condoning killings

National police chief Ronald de la Rosa told the senators that the police have nothing to hide and are not condoning extrajudicial killings.

"If any cop is found violating the law on self-defense he will be investigated, prosecuted and accordingly punished," said the police chief.

De la Rosa told the Senate investigation that from July 1 to Aug. 21, drug-related deaths in police operations totaled 718. He said more than a thousand deaths are still "under investigation."

Some 10,153 drug users and pushers have already been arrested in at least 6,000 anti-narcotics operations while more than 600,000 drug users and pushers surrendered to the police.

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