The Philippines Catholic Church has publicly criticized the government over its violent war on drugs.
Human rights organizations have condemned Robert Duterte, the current President of Philippines for mounting a deadly campaign against drug trafficking that has left thousands dead.
In 2016, Duterte, a controversial figure across the world, won the general election and assumed the office of the President. One of the key campaign promises that he had made was to be tough on criminals. He often vowed to kill thousands of criminals and has urged the public to take law into their own hands and kill drug addicts themselves. He once noted, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
The number of deaths in this deadly campaign has increased in the recent months. According to documented reports, there have been 7,000 deaths since April 2017. The UN has called on the country and the government to put an end to the violence. However, Duterte has retaliated by announcing that if the criticism persisted then he would withdraw Philippines from the UN and form a new body along with China and other countries.
The advocacy group, the Human Rights Watch has labelled Duterte’s reign as President as a “human rights calamity.”
In August 2017, the law enforcement agencies in Philippines conducted its deadliest series of raids yet. In the span of one night, 32 people were confirmed to have been killed near Manila. Over 100 have been arrested. Supt Romeo Caramat spoke about the raids noting, “We have conducted ‘one-time, big-time’ operations in the past. So far, the number of casualties and deaths, this is the highest. We wanted to shock and awe these drug personalities. Other drug personalities will think twice before continuing with their drug trade.”
Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle the head of the Philippines Catholic Church has criticized the actions. He is one of the highest ranking members of the Church to have publicly spoken up against the government so far. In a statement he said, “We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives. The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us."
Duterte has earned the nickname of “the Punisher” from those who oppose him.
Our assessment is that the Church along with other top organizations of the world are starting to speak up against the actions of Duterte. According to multiple scientific studies, drug addiction is a disease and should be cured through medical intervention. Perhaps compassion, which is preached by the Church, is the need of the hour. The extension of martial law has conjured comparisons between Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos. The Duterte-Marcos saga brings to mind Cardinal Jaime Sin, whose rallying cries over radio veritas brought the public into streets in 1986 and helped to force Marcos out. Four years before he died, Cardinal Sin took part in the campaign to oust President Joseph Estrada. Cardinal Sin died in 2005 marking the end of a remarkable career that mixed pulpit and politics.
Is Cardinal Louis Tagle the new Cardinal Sin?