MANILA, Aug. 25, 2016 – As the death toll rises to 1,800 following a bloody crackdown on illegal narcotics, a group of church leaders is lamenting the lack of government condemnation for the summary killings of suspected drug pushers and users.
By Aug. 23, authorities recorded 1,916 deaths, about 750 of which taking place during police operations with more still being investigated.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) said the lack of condemnation from both the Duterte administration and the public can lead to impunity.
“We are alarmed at the silence of the government, groups, and majority of the people in the face of these killings,” the group said in a statement.
“Is this lack of public outcry a tacit approval of what is happening? Is it fear that prevents people from speaking out? Whatever the reason, this problem, if it remains unchecked, leads to a culture of impunity,” it said.
Issued on Aug. 17, the statement was signed by newly-elected AMRSP chairpersons Fr. Cielito Almazan, OFM and Sr. Regina Kuizon, RGS.
It is a sentiment echoed by a series of observers, human rights activists, and other religious leaders who deplore President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that has resulted in a sharp increase in killings.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime executive director Yury Fedotov earlier said he joins UN chief Ban Ki-moon in protesting Duterte’s “endorsement of extrajudicial killings” in the Philippines.
Support for drug war
The religious superiors said they support the government’s campaign against the illegal narcotics trade.
The group also said they will “support the need for reforms in the criminal justice system and the need for rehabilitation for drug dependents”.
However, they expressed alarm over the summary executions, “which seem to go unchecked, without trial or investigation.”
“As religious and consecrated persons, we believe that the wheels of justice should take their course following the proper procedure and operate within the bounds of the law,” the AMRSP said.
They called on law enforcers to continue apprehending those involved in the illegal drugs trade while “avoiding extrajudicial killings”. The group also believes the PNP should “pursue and apprehend vigilantes who carry out such illegal actions.”
“We need to weed out the corrupt in our security forces as well as in the prosecution service as well as the judiciary,” they added. (CBCPNews)