As the relentless war on drugs of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte escalates, the country’s leading cardinal on Friday expressed pain at the loss of life saying the country cannot be governed by killing. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila said that it is with “pain and horror” that the country continues to get daily news of killings, mostly victimizing suspected drug pushers and users.
“We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal. We cannot govern the nation by killings, we cannot foster a humane and decent Filipino culture by killing,” the cardinal said in a statement on Sept. 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Card. Tagle called on those behind the killings to listen to their conscience and the voice of God “that summons us to do good and avoid evil”.
Allegation against police
According to police records, more than 3,800 people, most of them drug suspects, have died in police operations since July last year. Police say most were killed resisting arrest.
Thousands of other people have been killed by unknown assailants. Human Rights Watch said last month the drug-war death toll was at least 7,000.
There have been allegations that some police personnel are secretly involved in the extrajudicial drug-related deaths. Rights groups suspect police, or gunmen working with the encouragement of police, were behind most unexplained killings. Police reject the accusation saying the murders were the result of gang wars, drug dealers killing informers or vigilantes killing drug users.
Card. Tagle said that “heartless violence can be conquered only by a change of heart and by discovering in the depths of our being the inclination to do good and to love our neighbour.”
The Philippine government plans a cut of 75 percent in spending next year on drug rehabilitation facilities, while at the same time seeking a massive hike of more than 40 percent in funding for a war on drugs that has killed thousands, fueling concerns among lawmakers.
Card. Tagle, who is president of Caritas Internationalis, the federation of national charity arms of the worldwide Catholic Church, has repeatedly expressed concern over the spate of killings in the country and even led a multi-sectoral dialogue to come up with a united response to the illegal drugs problem.
Held on August 25, the dialogue gathered together some bishops, government and police authorities, journalists and youth leaders. “This dialogues and encounters have provided venues for telling and listening to human stories and for establishing partnership with various sectors of society and government,” he said.
The cardinal also met some families of the victims of recent killings and facilitated a recollection for the fresh graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy.
I hope that this type of dialogue may continue on different levels, including the parishes,” he said, as he called for more solidarity with those who have been killed and empathy and spiritual support to their families.
He also asked the priests and lay leaders in parish communities where there are cases of killings to go to the wake in order to bless the departed “and to be one with the grieving families in sorrow and in hope”.
Tolling church bells
Cardinal Tagle has called on other bishops to toll the church bells to raise alarm over the spate of killings. He ordered bells to be tolled every 8pm for five minutes across his pastoral jurisdiction to call on the faithful to remember the dead and pray for them. The tolling of church bells in the evening to pray for the dead is an old Filipino custom. “Now is the right time to revive it,” he said. (Source: CBCPNews)