The seeming indifference of the Filipino faithful to thousands of drug-related killings across the country has pushed a Catholic bishop in Manila to the point of calling himself a failure as a pastor.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the bishops' conference, said people's "indifference" seems to have plagued his diocese especially
Kalookan Diocese in the capital has become the epicenter of the government's three-year-old drug war that has reportedly killed thousands of people.
Government figures say at least 6,847 drug personalities have been killed in police anti-narcotics operations since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in mid-2016. The figure is significantly lower than the 27,000 estimate of human rights watchdogs.
Speaking at an international youth conference in the central Philippines this week, Bishop David said several killings were committed in broad daylight in front of a lot of people.
What’s lamentable, he said, no one even dared to help the victim or at least cover the body in one case despite the corpse being left at the scene for at least three hours.
"And when I saw that, I said I must honestly admit I’m a failure of a bishop," the prelate was quoted as saying.
In a post on the website of the Catholic bishops' conference, Bishop David said he was a failure if "people can behave this way in utter indifference to seeing something so violent and just walk by."
"There is no good Samaritan," he said. "What kind of shepherd am I if I just keep quiet about this inhumanity?" said the prelate.
"The prevalence of indifference is what the Mother Church has been grieving about with regard to her children.”
In an earlier talk, Bishop David said a government plan to hire more health workers to address drug addiction was long overdue.
The prelate, a vocal critic of the government's anti-narcotics campaign, said his diocese is willing to work with authorities to help deal with the drug problem.
"[It is] long overdue but never too late if they can admit what we have been insisting on all along — that drug addiction is basically a health issue," said Bishop David.
"We can even help the government cut down the cost if only the anti-drug abuse councils of local government units are willing to partner with our parishes," he said.
Philippine health officials have announced that the government is seeking funds to hire more psychologists and psychiatrists for drug rehabilitation centers.
Bishop David earlier challenged the Philippine Department of Health to be more active in confronting substance abuse and implement a more health-based approach to drug addiction.
The new head of a panel tasked with addressing the proliferation of illegal drugs has invited faith and human rights groups to help in the campaign.
Vice President Maria Robredo
said she wants the killings to end and "ensure effective conduct during all anti-illegal drug operations and the arrest of high-value drug personalities."
She said she wanted to give a new face to the government’s drug campaign, adding that the anti-narcotics drive "should be within the bounds of the rule of law."
The vice president lauded the initiative by Bishop David's diocese that advocated a "more public health-based” way of solving the narcotics problem and opened parishes and teamed up with local officials to rehabilitate drug users under a program of "healing, not killing."