House Speaker calls bishops hypocrites
Stung by a pastoral letter read in Catholic churches on Sunday that described President Duterte’s war on drugs as a “reign of terror” unleashed on the poor, Malacañang and its allies slammed the prelates as hypocrites out of touch with their flock.
“Sinners they are, the Catholic Church has no moral ascendancy to judge what is right and wrong,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a text message, reacting to the first unified stand taken by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Mr. Duterte’s bloody narcotics crackdown. “They are simply a bunch of shameless hypocrites,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told the bishops to just put their time and efforts “to better use.”
The former pastor claimed the changes ushered in by the Duterte administration had transformed the country “into a safer place for families, working people, especially young night shift workers, far from the ‘terror’ the bishops paint rather dramatically.”
“The officials of the (CBCP) are apparently out of touch with the sentiments of the faithful who overwhelmingly support the changes in the Philippines,” Abella said, apparently referring to popularity surveys showing overwhelming support of Mr. Duterte six months into his presidency.
“The efforts of these Church leaders might be put to better use in practical catechetics that build strong moral character among the faithful, and so contribute more to the reign of peace felt by ordinary citizens everywhere, especially those who are innocent of illegal activities,” he said.
The CBCP issued the strongly worded pastoral letter a few days after Mr. Duterte mounted a vicious verbal attack on bishops and priests, whom he called “monkeys,” “sons of bitches,” “child molester” and “corrupt” who did not have the moral ascendancy to criticize his merciless drug war.
The bishops said they were “deeply concerned” about the many deaths and killings triggered by the President’s campaign against what he called a “pandemic.”
Killing not a solution
“This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome. But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers,” said the three-page letter, signed by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of the CBCP.
The letter, which was read in all Masses on Sunday, was the result of a three-day plenary assembly of the bishops last week.
Although prelates have individually spoken against the spate of extrajudicial killings in the campaign against illegal drugs, this is the first time that the CBCP has taken a collective stand on the issue.
Mr. Duterte has made the campaign against illegal drugs the centerpiece of his administration, but police operations and summary executions have left more than 7,000 dead so far.
The bishops stressed that while they were one with the Filipinos who want change, that change “must be guided by truth and justice.”
They expressed concern not only for those killed in the crackdown, but also for the families left behind and the public’s “indifference” to the “reign of terror.”
Indifference to wrong
“An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong. It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that needs to be done,” the CBCP said.
“An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account,” they said.
“To push drugs is a grave sin as is killing except in self-defense. We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong. A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means.”
Not even the government has a right to kill, the CBCP said, pointing out that the government is only God’s steward and does not own life.
“We must also give priority to reforming rogue policemen and corrupt judges,” the letter said.