Bishop: ‘Give suspects, cops a chance’

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TACLOBAN City, Oct. 16, 2016 – Neither suspected drug personalities nor cops involved in Oplan Tokhang deserve condemnation, said Naval Bishop Filomeno Bactol.

Naval Bishop Filomeno Bactol, D.D. in a file photo at the Sto. Niño Parish convent. (Photo: Eileen Ballesteros)

“We have to give them chance to the people that are caught, being apprehended, and a chance for the people that are doing the apprehension,” said the prelate, who has long sent his retirement request to the Vatican.

“It would be good if the people [apprehended] will be given the chance to say something but [it is a] fact that when they (people being apprehended) pull the gun, the police officers are also trying to defend themselves,” he said.

No outright condemnation

He believes that although a suspect may quite possibly be guilty, they should not be condemned outright in the same way cops who end up killing people in the course of lawful police operations do not deserve condemnation.

“I base (my stand) on what I heard the President (Duterte) was saying (to the police force), ‘Ayaw kamo pagpa-una’ (Don’t let others beat you to the draw). In other words, they have to defend themselves,” stressed Bactol.

According to the Philippine National Police’s July 1 to 13, 2016 data, 135 persons were killed, about 10 persons daily on average, and 1,844 arrested or about 141 persons daily. 60,393 alleged drug users and 5,914 alleged drug pushers were apprehended, while 43,026 houses were “visited” by local and village officials to “target and flush out suspects,” according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

Possible vendetta

In those operations, 2,906 sachets of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride, 230 kilos of shabu, 1,094 grams of shabu, 26 packs of shabu, 57 sachets of marijuana, 42 marijuana leaves, 33 marijuana rolls, 10 marijuana plants, and 1 Ecstasy tablet were seized, amounting to Php 146,345 as estimated by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), revealed the PCIJ report.

Bactol expressed doubts that all of the killings were done by the government at the same time expressing strong dissent against summary executions.

“For all we know, there are other factors like vendetta,” he said, mentioning the possibility of reprisals by rival drug syndicates.

Oplan Tokhang in Biliran

In Biliran, the turnout of government’s campaign to crackdown on drug addiction or Oplan Tokhang is not alarming.

“We do not have as many as anywhere but there must be some (accomplishments),” disclosed Bactol, hoping that a drug rehabilitation center like the one in the Masbate Diocese be established in Biliran.

The prelate, a steadfast Marian devotee, said that if given a choice, he would want no fatalities during Oplan Tokhang but considering the reality of the killings, all the faithful can do is to pray.

“If possible there will be no killing, but since killing could not be avoided, all we could do is pray, but then we are not in the shoes of those people who are under stress, under pressure,” he said. (Eileen Ballesteros / CBCP News)

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