Philippine church head urges end to drug killings

Relatives and loved ones of drug-war victim Leover Miranda, 39, calling for a stop to President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless campaign during a funeral march in metro Manila yesterday.
Relatives and loved ones of drug-war victim Leover Miranda, 39, calling for a stop to President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless campaign during a funeral march in metro Manila yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Call follows violent week in which a teen was among at least 76 shot dead in raids

MANILA • The head of the Philippines' powerful Catholic Church called yesterday for an end to the "waste of human lives", following a brutal week in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war in which a 17-year-old boy was among dozens killed.

Police raids dubbed "One Time Big Time" saw at least 76 people shot dead, the authorities said, as rights groups and lawmakers condemned the operation as an alarming "killing spree" in Mr Duterte's flagship campaign.

Yesterday, the highest-ranking church official in the predominantly Catholic nation expressed concern about the increase in the number of deaths.

"We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives," Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle said in a statement read in Sunday masses in the capital.

"The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us."

Mr Duterte, 72, launched an unprecedented crackdown on illegal narcotics after winning the presidency last year on a promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

The Catholic Church, one of the nation's oldest and most influential institutions, has been among the few voices denouncing the deaths as polls showed Mr Duterte continuing to enjoy widespread popularity.

During the 14 months Mr Duterte has been in power, the police have confirmed killing more than 3,500 people, insisting they acted in self-defence.

More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes and thousands more murdered in unexplained circumstances, according to police data.

Yesterday, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines joined Cardinal Tagle in denouncing the deaths, calling on the faithful to ring church bells daily in solidarity with the victims.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Philippine church head urges end to drug killings'. Print Edition | Subscribe