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Church, rights groups blame Duterte for rise in killings

Drug-related slayings have rocketed in the Philippines 'as a result of president's pronouncements'

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

Published: July 21, 2016 10:21 AM GMT
Church, rights groups blame Duterte for rise in killings

Police investigate the dead body of an alleged drug dealer, his face covered with packing tape and a placard reading "I'm a pusher," on a street in Manila in this July 8 photo. (Photo by AFP)

Church and human rights groups in the Philippines have accused President Rodrigo Duterte of provoking what they described as an "unceasing rise in vigilantism" as the government continues its all-out war against illegal drugs.

"What makes these spate of executions most worrisome is that this was prompted by President Duterte's pronouncements," the Citizen's Council for Human Rights said July 20.

The group, which is composed of people from the academe, religious organizations and other parts of civil society, said, "the surge in fatalities is too alarming to be ignored."

It noted that from the first day of January this year up to Election Day on May 9, there were only 39 reported deaths linked to drug-related violence.

The death count suddenly ballooned after May 10 when Duterte was elected into office. 

Some 251 drug-related deaths have already been reported in the last two months.

Manila Archdiocese has condemned the killings, which it described as being done by men in uniform (and) by vigilante groups "under the baton of one maestro."

Father Atillano Fajardo of the archdiocese's public affairs ministry said even criminals should be given "due process and fair trial."

The priest also joined calls for a stop to "torture and dehumanizing methods in the fight against crime and drugs" and a review and reform of the country's criminal justice system.

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates said the "social costs and dangers of arbitrary methods should not be underestimated."

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"The disregard of safeguards endangers everyone in Philippine society," said Max de Mesa, chairman of the alliance. 

"Anyone can now be accused of any crime or involvement in illegal drugs and be executed," he said, adding that "summary methods" will not solve the country's crime and illegal drugs problem."

Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan in the southern region of Mindanao, meanwhile, urged the public to support the government's anti-illegal drug campaign.

"We must support programs to end the proliferation of drugs, but it requires due process to protect the dignity of the person and the right to life," the prelate said.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines earlier urged Catholics, as part of their moral duty, "to report all forms of vigilantism of which they have personal knowledge."

"For greater reason is it a duty to keep away from any participation and any form of cooperation with vigilantes and vigilante movements," the bishops said in a statement last month.

The bishops warned against accepting payment to kill another human being and urged policemen to use non-lethal means in arresting suspected criminals.

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