Statement of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies on EJK
Our Christian faith has time and again taught us to condemn the sin, and never the sinner. It runs against Christ’s example of mercy and compassion to judge sinners without even giving them the hope for conversion, renewal, and the promise of God’s unconditional mercy. More so, it is utterly unchristian to mercilessly kill sinners, especially the helpless poor, in the obviously confused pretext of eradicating the sin. This is strongly condemnable, yet this characterizes the deplorable condition of our Philippine society.
Thousands have been reportedly killed resulting from the current anti-drug campaign of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Basing from police records, more than 2,500 drug suspects were killed in legitimate anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2016. In the same period, 53,000 were also arrested. What is more horrifying are the more than 4,000 deaths which the police consider as “under investigation,” although presumed to be barbaric acts of vigilantes and drug syndicates carrying out internal purging. In Central Visayas, a total of 158 were killed in operations, while 5,413 were arrested within the period July 1, 2016 to February 2, 2017. A careful look at the socio-economic background of the victims will reveal the anti-poor character of this drug war. Most of the victims are petty-criminals, not to mention the innocent children deemed as collateral damages of this anti-poor operations.
With the exposition done by the Amnesty International, one can further see the gravity of evil at work even among law enforcers. It was uncovered that police officers get paid in anti-drug operations, and the incentives range from Php 8,000 to Php 15,000 per suspect killed. Our supposedly trusted officials in the bureaucracy are perpetrating a mercenary culture within the ranks of our police officers. This mercenary culture must be strongly condemned for it favors monetary incentives over moral judgments, of death over the affirmation of life and hope. Consequently, it will cloud reasoned judgment and turns police operations into an indiscriminate orgy of mercenaries lusting for monetary rewards. And this culture must be condemned by the police officers themselves as it is a predatory culture operative only through the exploitation of the dire economic conditions of law enforcers eager to raise their living conditions at the cost of killing drug suspects. They must resolutely decry such a culture lest they be labeled hypocrites claiming to be serving and protecting the community while doing otherwise.
The temporary suspension of the said operations neither absolves the perpetrators nor guarantees the safety of the poor and the rest of the community against similar aggressions in the future. What is needed is to render justice to all the victims. Special care and attention should also be given to the orphans and the widows, and provide them with the necessary economic support. Above all, the current administration has to craft an alternative drug campaign that genuinely addresses the problem.
The Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies (COSA) strongly denounces this state-sponsored killings which in reality has failed to provide substantial remedies to the drug problem the country is
facing. In addressing the issue, the government must abandon a militarist strategy but must rather engage the problem with a wholistic, democratic and people-centered approach. First, enough rehabilitation facilities must be constructed by the government. The latter must seriously combat the drug issue by painstakingly persuading individuals involved in the use of drugs to undergo needed interventions for physical, psychological, and spiritual rehabilitation and renewal. Along with this, the government has to employ enough health and social workers, and other needed experts for the smooth and proper conduct of necessary medical and psycho-social interventions, in a nationwide scale. Both the aforementioned measures imply better state-subsidy in the health sector, one of the poorly-funded sectors of the Philippine society. The culture of stigmatizing users and also pushers must also be countered through proper education and a victim-centered model of community involvement. Enlightened sectors of society must be encouraged to combat the illegal business, collectively exposing and opposing known drug centers and syndicates, and waging mass campaigns and advocacies against big bureaucrats backing this illegal drugs trade. The enemies are the big illegal businesses, and not the victims of the businesses.
Furthermore, COSA strongly believes that while the socio-economic roots for the proliferation of illegal drug businesses continue to proliferate, and the decadent culture of escapism lingers, the drug menace will continue to wreak havoc despite of heightened militarist approach. The said socio-economic conditions characterized by urban and rural poverty, contractual work, low wages, commercialized education, and inaccessible social services condition Filipinos, especially the youth, to be more vulnerable to and eventually engage in the illegal drugs trade. Drug business preys on the vulnerabilities of the poor, and so it is but justice to the poor if this illegal drugs trade is eradicated through the elimination of socio- economic problems of Philippine society in general.
COSA has steadfastly stood its position for the resumption of the peace talks of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), as the second item of the substantive agenda aims at eradicating socio-economic maladies that have long enslaved the poor Filipinos. There is a direct connection between the success of the peace talks and the eradication of the drug menace. COSA, along with all peace loving Filipinos, strongly urge the Duterte government to resume the peace talks, eradicate the existing socio-economic maladies, and pave a better future for the Filipinos, especially the youth.
COSA will continue to speak against the killings. It also supports the “Walk for Life” of the CBCP this February 18, 2017. In standing firm to its commitment for life, justice, and peace, COSA, in the near future, will convene with other cause-oriented groups in order to make a collective advocacy against the rampant killings, support the families of the victims, and help organizing anti-drug campaigns. COSA is certain that the fullness of life can only be realized through a peace based on social justice.
Fr. Nazario “Ace” Vocales
Archdiocesan Commission on Social Advocacies Archdiocese of Cebu