Robredo: Church can empower Filipinos to speak out vs killings

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo lauded the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released over the weekend that denounced the extrajudicial killings in the country linked to the war on drugs.

"So many of our countrymen look up to the Church for guidance. Iyong ganoong pastoral letter, nakakapagbigay siya ng lakas ng loob (That pastoral letter can boost courage)," Robredo told priests gathered in the Diocese of Imus in Cavite on Tuesday, February 7.

Robredo said families have been telling the Office of the Vice President that they want to seek justice for their slain loved ones, but are too afraid because their safety might be at risk.

After 7 months of the anti-drug campaign that has left more than 7,000 people dead, Robredo said it is about time that families are emboldened to file cases. (READ: War on drugs: The families left behind

The Office of the Vice President has organized a team of lawyers to help these families, but Robredo said only a few have the courage to actually pursue cases.

"I think the pastoral letter last Sunday could be a tipping point, na kapag naramdaman ng tao na kakampi namin ang Simbahan, baka sakaling mas lumabas iyong kanilang mga kuwento (that when people feel that the Church backs them, maybe their stories will be revealed)," she continued.

Robredo urged Filipinos to rise above the "viciousness and hate" spreading on social media, and not to be scared to express their views.

"Marami na tayong mga kasama na ayaw lumahok kasi baka sila naman ang atakihin, pero 'pag ganyan kasi lahat ang ating pakiramdam, sino pa ang magiging boses?" said Robredo.

(Many people do not wish to participate because they might be subjected to attacks. But if everyone feels that way, who else would speak out?)

Community rehabilitation

As Robredo continues to criticize the bloody drug war, she encouraged the Church to set up more community rehabilitation programs for former drug dependents. (IN PHOTOS: On his own: 'New hope' under one man's drug rehab program)

The Department of Health earlier noted that only up to 10% of drug surrenderers need to be admitted to drug rehabilitation centers, and the rest may be treated through community reintegration programs.

Robredo emphasized that this could decongest jails, where a lot of those recently admitted are involved in illegal drug activities. (READ: War on drugs: Rehabilitation must be more than a knee-jerk reaction)

"We really need to put up an honest to goodness community rehabilitation program for them. And I think that that's one of the things that the Church can be very active in," she said.

"All barangays belong to one parish, it is something we can really paint an active participation in." (READ: Church in Bulacan runs 27-year-old drug rehab program–

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.