A Catholic bishop in the Philippines said his government’s controversial war on drugs is really a war against the country’s poor.
“There is no war against illegal drugs, because the supply is not being stopped. If they are really after illegal drugs, they would go after the big people, the manufacturers, the smugglers, the suppliers. But instead, they go after the victims of these people. So, I have come to the conclusion that this war on illegal drugs is illegal, immoral and antipoor,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan. Sign up for NCR’s Copy Desk Daily, and we’ll email you recommended news and opinion articles in each weekday.
The Philippines has suffered for years from widespread drug abuse, principally shabu, a cheaply produced form of methamphetamine. President Rodrigo Duterte ran for office promising a crackdown on drug use, and since he took office in 2016, rights groups say more than 20,000 people have been killed in extrajudicial killings, mostly carried out by the country’s police.
Church leaders have grown increasingly critical of the violence. The country’s Catholic bishops conference acknowledged in a Jan. 28 pastoral message that they had been slow in responding as a “culture of violence has gradually prevailed in our land.”
The bishops spoke “of mostly poor people being brutally murdered on mere suspicion of being small-time drug users and peddlers, while the big-time smugglers and drug lords went scot-free.” While they said they had “no intention of interfering in the conduct of state affairs,” they said they had “a solemn duty to defend our flock, especially when they are attacked by wolves.”
Duterte has repeatedly slammed the church in response to its criticism, and David, who also serves as vice president of the bishops’ conference, has become the principal target of Duterte’s angry outbursts at the church.