Cardinal Tagle leads Filipino march against threat to life

Thousands of Catholics speak out against drug-related killings, divorce
Cardinal Tagle leads Filipino march against threat to life

Filipino Catholics call for a stop to drug-related killings in the country during the 'March for Life' in Manila on Feb. 24. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Catholics came out strongly against what they described as "threats to life" in rallies held in major cities across the Philippines on Feb. 24.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led priests, nuns, and lay people in an early morning "Walk for Life" around the capital's main park.

In his homily, the Manila prelate appealed to Catholics to value life, even of their enemies, and society's so-called outcasts.

Among the issues raised during the march were drug-related killings, a proposal in Congress to legalize divorce, and changes to the constitution.

"Let us bring back the belief that the lives of other people, even of our enemies, are a gift from God," Cardinal Tagle said.

Relatives of those who died in the government's "war against drugs" joined the candle-lit procession in which an estimated 2,000 people took part.

"Life is a gift from God. But when we start thinking of other people's lives in terms of their usefulness to us, it becomes so easy for us to just do away and discard life," Cardinal Tagle said.

The Manila prelate noted that it is "easy to walk for one's loved ones, but quite difficult to do the same for one's enemies."

In the central Philippines, an estimated 5,000 Catholics joined a "Walk for Life with Mary" led by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu.

The archbishop said Catholics support the government's war against drugs but "question the manner it is done because of questionable motives and circumstances."

"No man has the right to [end] another's life. God is the beginning and end of life. Let us protect life from womb to tomb," he said.

Rights groups say that close to 12,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the government's campaign against narcotics.

"I hope all threats to life and the series of killings will stop because we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus and Mary," said the Cebu prelate.

In Cagayan de Oro City in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma warned that the drug-related killings "will create more problems."

"While we are trying to solve one problem, we are creating another," he said, adding that it is the hope of the church "for the government to promote due process" in the campaign against illegal drugs.

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Among the issues raised during the "Walk for Life" in Manila on Feb. 24 is the Catholic Church's opposition to proposals in the Philippine Congress to pass a divorce law. (Photo by Angie de Silva)


Statement against divorce

The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the bishops' conference released a pastoral statement opposing proposals to legalize divorce.

The statement reminded the country's legislators to protect the constitution that recognizes marriage "as an inviolable social institution" that must be protected by the state.

The bishops noted that Filipino children deserve a home where love, faithfulness, and forgiveness reign.

"They don't want to see their parents quit because there are difficulties in their relationship," read the statement, adding that even in difficult marriages, "children have benefited psychologically, physically and spiritually."

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said Catholics should rally to show the "disastrous effect" of divorce on communities.

"Divorce is a direct affront to the law ordained by God. The destruction of families by divorce is indeed a project of Satan, the enemy par excellence of God," said the prelate.

The Philippines is the only Catholic country in the world, aside from the Vatican, where divorce is prohibited by law except for Muslims.

"The church is all for the protection of rights especially of aggrieved parties in marriage," said Father Jerome Secillano of the bishops' communications office.

"But protection of rights should go hand in hand with upholding our cherished institutions like marriage," added the priest.

He said that while divorce vindicates the rights of women, "it is unfortunately to the detriment of marriage and family as sacred institutions."

The government thanked church leaders for the peaceful marches, saying that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "is open to constructive criticism."

"He allows everyone, including protesters, to fully exercise their right to express their grievances within the bounds of the law," said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

He said the "Walk for Life" is a "testament that democracy and freedom are very much alive in the Philippines." 

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