Catholic bishops on Tuesday urged the faithful to offer prayers and light candles for 40 days for the victims of President Duterte’s war on drugs and of violence in Marawi City.
In a pastoral statement titled, “Lord heal our land,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed horror at the deaths of three teenagers in recent weeks, all victims of the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and crime.
“We are appalled by the remorselessness by which even the young are executed,” the bishops said.
The statement was signed by the CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
The prelates were referring to the killings of Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, on Aug. 16; Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, on Aug. 18, and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, 14, Arnaiz’s last known companion, probably also on Aug. 18.
Delos Santos was killed by policemen during a drug raid in Caloocan City.
The Caloocan police were also behind the death of Arnaiz. They said they killed the teenager in an exchange of gunfire after he robbed a taxi driver.
The taxi driver, 54-year-old Tomas Bagcal, said on Sunday that he and bystanders captured Arnaiz and that he turned him over to the police alive.
Thousands of people have been killed by police in drug raids and by suspected vigilantes since Mr. Duterte launched the crackdown on drugs after taking office in June last year.
International human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the killings and the International Criminal Court has warned Philippine officials of possible prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Addressing the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein slammed President Duterte’s “open support for a shoot-to-kill policy” against criminal suspects.
Zeid said he found the impunity “appalling.”
He mentioned the killing of Delos Santos, which Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II described as an “isolated case.”
“Two days after hundreds of people turned out for the teenager’s funeral, the President again told police they would not be punished for killing suspects who resist arrest. This lack of respect for the due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling,” Zeid said.
“The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us your bishops to declare: In the name of God, stop the killings! May the justice of God come upon those responsible for the killings!” the CBCP said.
For some, the bishops said, it is easy to agree with the elimination of other members of society who are labeled “unsalvageable,” “irremediable,” “hopelessly perverse,” or “irreparably damaged.”
“We stand firmly against drugs and the death drugs have caused, but killing is not the solution [to] the problem,” the bishops said, adding that the wounded need hands to help them up, not feet to trample on them.
The bishops stressed that the country’s healing should begin by instilling the value of being concerned and caring for one another, and for the rule of law to prevail.
The prelates urged the Catholic faithful to offer prayers for 40 days for the victims of the war on drugs, all victims of violence, and the victims of the war in Marawi City.
The period of prayer will begin on Sept. 23 and end on Nov. 1.
The CBCP also called for the tolling of church bells at 8 p.m. — the tradition of “De Profundis” — during the same 40-day period in remembrance of those who were killed.
The bishops also urged the lighting of candles for 40 days in front of homes, in cemeteries, public places, and on the spots where the victims were killed. —With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan
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