More church leaders slam drug slays

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More officials of the Roman Catholic Church have added their voices to a growing public protest against the killing of alleged drug offenders in a sudden intensification of President Duterte’s war on drugs in which a 17-year-old boy was among dozens killed by the Philippine National Police.

At least 76 people were killed in near-simultaneous police raids in Pampanga province and Metro Manila last week, but it was the shooting death in police custody of Grade 12 student Kian Loyd delos Santos in Caloocan City on Wednesday that sparked widespread public anger and pushed the Senate to decide to investigate.

Hundreds of young people gathered at the People Power Monument on Edsa, Quezon City, on Monday evening to condemn the killings and demand an impartial investigation of the death of Delos Santos.

“These extrajudicial killings have brought so much fear, anguish and anxiety to our fellow Filipinos,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said in a statement issued earlier on Monday.

Ongtioco said that while he acknowledged the evil caused by drugs, he vehemently disagreed with the “proposed solution” to the drug problem - referring to the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.

“[This] solution has no regard for due process, for human rights and for human life,” Ongtioco said.


Tolling of bells

Following a call on Sunday by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Ongtioco said he would ask all churches within his diocese to ring their bells for five minutes starting at 8 p.m. on Aug. 22 to 29 to demand justice for those who had been killed.

“Let the ringing of bells also signify the diocese’s strongest condemnation of the continuing killings, which are being justified as necessary in the war [on] drugs,” Ongtioco said.

“We continue to pray for justice for the victims; peace in our country and enlightenment for all Filipinos to preserve the sanctity of life,” he added.

At the Edsa rally, Shamah Bulangis, secretary general of Akbayan Youth, organizer of the multisectoral protest, said the gathering was in support for the Delos Santos family and an expression of outrage over “what is going on” in the country.

She said that while many others had died in the war on drugs, the death of Delos Santos became the “tipping point” for the public.

“He has become a central figure because his death is the only one that has evidence [against the police]. It gives us more balls to say that this government is corrupt in its war on drugs,” Bulangis said.


‘Kill only policy’

The groups at the rally - including Millennials Against Dictators, Block Marcos, Youth Resist and Student Council Alliance of the Philippines - condemned the “kill only policy” of the war on drugs.

Bulangis said President Duterte should “be held accountable,” as he was the one “who instigated the war on drugs.”

Malacañang said it respected the people’s rights to protest the killing of the teenager and express their views and grievances against the government.

“The rally for Kian is part of the people’s right to assemble, express their views and grievances,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“The President has said time and again that he will allow mass protests as long as [these do] not cause public inconvenience or compromise public safety. This is consistent with [the President’s] philosophy that criticism - good or bad - is part of the territory of anyone working in the government,” he said.

The Diocese of Balanga in Bataan province has joined the call for an end to the killings.

The diocese has issued a special “prayer for conversion and change of hearts for peace and security” to be recited during Mass, after the post-Communion prayer, from Aug. 22 to 29.

On Sunday, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma joined several groups in demanding justice for Delos Santos and an end to the killing of drug suspects.

“I join the call for justice. I have heard reports. It was said that before [Delos Santos] was killed, he [pleaded] for … his life … [The] next thing we know, he’s dead,” Palma said.

The killings in the campaign against drugs should stop, he added.

“We’re saying this not because we are opposed to the war [on] drugs, but [because] we’re opposed to the way it is being conducted. And in many ways we can say it has almost gone out of bounds,” Palma said.


Prayers for teener

Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cebu, called on the public to pray for the eternal repose of Delos Santos.

He also called for prayers for peace in the country and for sobriety so that people would not make conclusions before the facts about Delos Santos’ death were known.

“And, of course, our third prayer is for the truth to come out so that justice may be served,” Tan said.

In Negros Occidental province, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon reiterated his call for respect for human life.

“I weep with the families of the victims of the latest spate of killings … in the [war on drugs]. I amone with them in their outrage and cry for justice,” Buzon said.

“I appeal to [ the] government to respect the sacredness of human life and to put an end to this senseless carnage [that] originates from a short-sighted and simplistic way of seeing and solving the drug problem solely as a criminal and political issue,” he added.

On Monday, Aug. 21, members of the activist group, Akbayan Youth, marched on downtown Cebu to denounce the war on drugs and the killing of Delos Santos.

They lighted candles at the junction of Colon Street and Osmeña Boulevard for the teenager and the other victims of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. - —WITH REPORTS FROM JOSE SANTINO BUNACHITA, CARLA P. GOMEZ, ROSALIE ABATAYO ANDCHRIS LIGAN/

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