Church leaders in the Philippines are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to “examine the correctness of its approach” in eradicating the illegal drug trade.

“The campaign can continue without violating people’s rights and keeping all actions within the parameters of the law,” read a statement by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF). Below is the full statement:

Statement on the President’s Campaign versus Illegal Drugs, Criminality and Corruption

We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on his serious campaign versus illegal drugs, criminality and corruption, his election campaign promise which he will do in three to six month-time of his term. The promise is getting fulfilled.

Even before President Rody formally assumed office, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has started rounding up known illegal drug users and pushers in Metro Manila. Today, more than one month after the President’s inauguration on June 30, hundreds had been killed, hundreds more were arrested and jailed, and thousands voluntarily surrendered. All of them are said to be small time users and pushers, and, as human rights advocates say, are poor people.

However, on July 5, the President unexpectedly named five former and incumbent police generals who are illegal drug protectors. This was followed by an announcement on August 7 of 159 local government officials (mayors, former mayors, and former vice mayors) incumbent and former police and military officers, and incumbent and former judges who are linked to illegal drugs trade. He claims more names will follow.

The big time drug lords, the President says, are in other countries like China and Mexico from where they direct their operations, and it is difficult if not impossible to run after them.

The PNP chief, Police General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, claims that crime have gone down, indicating that most crime are drug related. Thus the war on drugs is also a war against criminality.

This may be true as far petty crime such as bag-snatching, child molestation, rape, rape with homicide and murder, “akyat bahay” theft, hold-ups and the likes are concerned. Big crimes such as bank robberies, pyramiding scam, illegal recruitment, cyber-crimes, break-in in malls and the likes continue unabated.

Steps in curbing corruption in government have been started. Among the measures are the signing of the Executive Order on Freedom of Information which covers the executive department and the order to shorten the processing of applications in government offices. More serious and lasting measures still have to be done.

Given the number of days in office of the new administration, its campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption may be considered a success thus far. We congratulate the President for this, and pledge our support for his sincere efforts to address the present situation.

While we believe and support President Duterte’s war on drugs, there is a need for deeper analysis why the drug problem is thriving and who benefit from this. There is also need for the present administration to examine the correctness of its approach in eliminating this menace. The extra-judicial killings that are happening, we believe, won’t solve that problem but exacerbate it as most of those killed are small time and poor people. The suspected five police generals and government officials seem to be getting a special privilege; they remain very much alive.

We wish to caution the President, then, to respect the human rights of the people. Life which came from the Creator is precious; it has to be preserved as much as possible. The campaign can continue without violating people’s rights and keeping all actions within the parameters of the law.

We bid the President success in his drug campaign in particular, and in his administration in general. His success is the Filipino people’s success.


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