The Philippines' national police chief has appealed for "trust" and support from the country's Catholic bishops in the government's renewed campaign against narcotics. "I hope that [the bishops] will give even a little trust to their police," said Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, head of the national police office. Dela Rosa issued the statement following the pronouncements of various church leaders that the government does not need priests in police operations against illegal drugs. The Philippine National Police this week "re-launched" its anti-narcotics war, which Dela Rosa said will be "less bloody, if not bloodless." He said the renewed campaign would be coordinated with local church leaders who will be provided with bulletproof vests and helmets during police operations. Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, however, said the invitation for priests to join police operations is "propaganda." "Is this how distrusting they are?" said Dela Rosa. "Is it not that if you are with the church you should trust others?" he said. "I appealed for help, and that was their reaction. I hope that even a little trust is left in their hearts for us," said the police chief. "We continue to trust that [the bishops] will help us in our campaign," said Dela Rosa. He said he plans to talk with the bishops and local church leaders in the coming days for coordination. The bishops have been among the most vocal critics of the government's anti-narcotics war because of drug-related killings in recent months. Dela Rosa said that despite the criticism he is getting from the church, he would remain a Catholic. "I am a Catholic believer, I grew up a Catholic, I respect the church," he said. He said his invitation for priests to join anti-narcotics operations is a way to "appease" church leaders. "I want them to witness a real operation because it is difficult that they criticize but they don't know what happens on the ground," said the police chief.
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He admitted that the presence of priests during police operations would also give credibility to the anti-narcotics campaign. Church leaders, however, said that although they support the government's campaign against illegal drugs, it is "awkward for priests to be seen in the company of armed operatives." Father Felix Pasquin of Bacolod Diocese said the primary task of the church is to evangelize and educate. "Our prayers go with our police as they face their challenging mission," said the priest. Nearly 8,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the past seven months, either during police operations or at the hands of self-styled anti-narcotics vigilante groups.