“My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.”
– President Rodrigo Duterte 1
And true to his words, drug-related deaths are now into the thousands. Yet there are no clear statistics on how many have in fact been killed. 2
A. SOURCE: #RealNumbersPH
Number KILLED in War on Drug: 5,526 deaths of “drug personalities”. (June 2019)
B. SOURCE: Philippine National Police
Number KILLED in War on Drug: 6,700
C. SOURCE: Commission on Human Rights
Number KILLED in War on Drugs: 27,000 drug related killings including drug-related killings carried out by vigilantes
We have more than 30,000 new martyrs in our midst. A new theology of martyrdom, a new martyrology for our times is an also act of resistance. 3
Following their commitment to prophetic witnessing, the Churches in the Philippines – Protestant, Evangelical, and Catholic, on their own accord, including non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations and government leaders intensified their protests against the human rights violations on the poor, women, children, those who resisted and opposed this madness of governance.
And like a relentless force, the government machinery, pitted those critical to the President Duterte’s policies against the people – the yellow oppositionist, the red terrorists, the seditionists. Everyone who stood for truth became enemies of the state.
On July 2019, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, filed charges of inciting to sedition, cyber libel and obstruction of Justice against thirty-five personalities, including Vice President Robredo, members of the Liberal party, Bishops Villegas, Ongtioco, David; Fathers Albert, Robert and Flavie over the viral videos of Peter Joemel Advincula that tagged President Duterte and his family in the drug trade. Some superiors of religious congregations, implicated by Peter Joemel were issued summons to appear for questioning by the PNP-CIDG.
In quick succession, the Makabayan bloc in Congress, Bayan Muna, Ibon Foundation, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Gabriela, ACT, the National Council of Churches were tagged as communist fronts. Offices of some of these organizations were raided and their staffs arrested.
On December 6, Sr. Elenita Belardo, RGS, National Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), was granted temporary freedom from the perjury case filed against her by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., following the warrant of arrest issued by a Quezon City court on Thursday. 4
Sadly, many Filipinos equate these human rights violations against life and freedom – as President Duterte’s brand of political will.
On December 10, 2018, Pope Francis gave this message in the International Conference on “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions and Negations,” Dec. 10, 2018, at the Pontifical Gregorian University. 5
This exigency of justice and solidarity has special significance for us Christians, because the Gospel itself invites us to turn our gaze to the littlest of our brothers and sisters, to be moved to compassion (Cf. Matthew 14:14) and to commit ourselves concretely to alleviate their sufferings.
On this occasion, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to all those that have institutional responsibilities, asking them to put human rights at the center of all policies, including those of cooperation for development, even when that means going against the current.
We call on all public servants to govern from the ethics of decency, fair play, justice, social equity and respect for the poor, marginalized and the most vulnerable.
We, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Association of the Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, together with the seven Mission Partners, will continue to walk together with the universal and local Church in “defense of human dignity, human rights, human lives; a defense of the liberation and well-being that Jesus brings.” 6
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