Lay group urges probe of ‘drug war’ deaths

Lay group urges probe of ‘drug war’ deaths

Fr. Robert Reyes and Fr. Flavie Villanueva pray at the spot where 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos was allegedly murdered by policemen in an anti-illegal drugs operation, August 25, 2017. MARIA TAN

MANILA— The lay arm of the Catholic Church is calling for an investigation into the high death tolls linked to the Duterte administration’s brutal crackdown against narcotics trade.

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines (CLP), an umbrella group of various Catholic lay organizations, said killings won’t stop without a meaningful probe into the deaths – both from police and vigilante-style killings.

Zenaida Capistrano, CLP President, said they agree that the country’s drug problem must be dealt with seriously but insisted that the rule of law should not be disregarded in fighting criminality.

“We call on them (government leaders) as well to investigate with care, prudence and diligence all recent killings as result of police operations or those committed by vigilante groups,” Capistrano said.

The group of more than a hundred lay organizations is concerned that the lack of due process may give ruse to the nation becoming a “police state”.

“While we want to give our police much needed support, abuses are always a reality. We don’t want to give authorities that power to live by the gun in the name of law and order,” said Capistrano.

“When law enforcers make mistakes, innocent lives are endangered. We need to observe all constitutional means to the right to life,” she added.

Last week, more than 80 suspected drug users were killed in Bulacan province and Metro Manila in what is believed to be the deadliest week since President Rodrigo Duterte started his war on drugs last year.

The group said the recent wave of violence in the country only showed that the matter of extrajudicial killings has “worsened”.

Capistrano also reiterated their firm stand against summary killings, as they lamented that many people become “desensitized” over the “increasing culture of violence”.

“Killings are not a deterrent to criminals, killings will not help solve our problem of drugs,” she said. CBCPNews