MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) joined calls against the "daily bloodshed" in the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte wages a bloody war on illegal drugs.
In a statement published on August 9, the PCEC started by saying it supports Duterte's "laudable determination" to end the illegal drug trade in the country.
"However, we are deeply concerned with the daily bloodshed of those who are accused of being a 'pusher,' 'addict,' or involved in some way in prohibited drugs," said the group, which is composed of about 30,000 Evangelical churches.
The PCEC pointed out that "there certainly are legitimate instances when our police forces need to inflict fatal injuries."
On the other hand, "there also are numerous instances when drug suspects, many of them only in their youth, seemed to have been brutally killed outside the ambit of the law."
'Where is rule of law?'
Referring to extrajudicial killings, the PCEC said: "In such cases we therefore ask: Where is the rule of law that ensures every Filipino accused of an offense must first be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by a court of law before fair and just punishments are meted out? Where is justice in the killings of those who are accused when our law does not even permit as a punishment the killing of a person?"
It added, "How can we claim justice and peace in our land when murderers are allowed to kill with impunity and roam freely?"
The Philippine National Police said 612 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate police operations as of Monday, August 15.
In its independent tally, ABS-CBN News pegs the number of casualties at more than 830. This figure includes at least 246 killed by "unidentified assailants" and 76 "salvage victims."
'Be more circumspect,' Duterte urged
In its statement, the PCEC then made the following appeals to Duterte:
At the same time, the PCEC urged Philippine National Police chief Director General Roland dela Rosa to investigate the recent kilings of alleged drug suspects.
The group also requested Dela Rosa to provide enough "personal protective equipment" to the police.
This will protect the police from "serious bodily harm," which will then "minimize the necessity for them to immediately inflict fatal injuries to criminals during police operations."
'Denounce brutal killings'
The PCEC added, "We call on Evangelical Christians to denounce the unlawful and brutal killings of drug suspects, which demonstrate utter disregard for human life."
"Finally," the group said, "we call on every Filipino to be in solidarity in helping to improve the anti-drug program that our President has initiated."
Along with the PCEC, the following Catholic groups and individuals have taken turns in criticizing the recent killings in the Philippines:
Duterte, for his part, continues to defend his bloody war on drugs, as he vows to suppress crime and corruption within 3 to 6 months in office.
In a speech on Monday, the President known as "The Punisher" said, "I will appear like an enemy, or with stained hands, maybe soaked in blood, but there is no way to stop it now."
"There can be no stopping of the momentum until I have destroyed the apparatus," Duterte said. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.