Philippines' top bishop calls drug dealers 'Satans'

Prelate reacts to Duterte admission that govt is fighting a losing a losing battle against narcotics scourge
Philippines' top bishop calls drug dealers 'Satans'

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, described those behind the drug trade as 'dealers of death and darkness.' (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

The head of the Philippine bishops' conference has called drug dealers "Satans" following President Rodrigo Duterte's admission last week that the illegal narcotics trade had worsened despite the government’s deadly drug war.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, speaking during the launch of a drug rehabilitation program on March 31, said those behind the drug trade are "dealers of death and darkness."

"In the news we see not just thousands but billions worth of drugs. They are Satans," said the prelate as he appealed to the public not to be seduced by the drug trade and not to negotiate with evil.

"We know very well that it destroys you physically, your future, you may become a murderer, all the darkness of drugs, we know the ending," said Archbishop Valles, a friend of Duterte who has been relentless in his anti-narcotics campaign since he assumed the presidency in 2016.

In his homily during a Mass, the prelate denounced reports of recent drug shipments to the country.

On March 22, Philippine authorities intercepted an estimated US$34 million worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, in Manila port. Earlier in the month, authorities also intercepted at least US$53 million worth of illegal drugs at a house inside a gated community south of Manila.

Archbishop Valles said that while prevention of drug abuse is a priority, rehabilitation of drug victims should be carried out "even if to the world it is impractical."

"Each person is precious in the eyes of God. That is a teaching that cannot be touched. Life is precious. No discussion about that," said the prelate. "This is the mark of the Catholic community, to be merciful and loving." 

Human rights groups and Catholic Church leaders have denounced Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign, which is claiming an ever-increasing number of lives.

According to the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, from July 1, 2016, to January 31, 2019, there were a total of 5,176 people killed in anti-drug operations.

Human rights groups, however, estimate about 30,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed in what authorities described as "deaths under investigation."

Despite all this, Duterte says "things have worsened."

"My policemen are on the brink of surrendering," said the president in a speech in Cagayan de Oro City last week.

Duterte said even government people, including the police and military, are also involved in the illegal drug trade.

During the 2016 presidential elections, Duterte promised that he would eliminate the drug problem in six months, but he later extended the deadline to 2022.

He later said he was not prepared for the enormity of the drug problem given the volume of illegal drugs that enters the country as well as those involved in it.

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