‘I wake up praying for dead people’
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said night prayers have become his ritual since October last year when the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs claimed more lives in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas, all part of the Diocese of Caloocan that he heads.
“I wake up in the middle of the night praying for dead people,” David shared during a reflection session with the laity in the Archdiocese of San Fernando in Pampanga, his home province, on Wednesday.
The forum, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper? The Church in Times of Crisis,” gathered more than 300 lay leaders.
Most extrajudicial killings in the diocese took place in slum communities where the Roman Catholic Church could not provide sanctuaries to people in distress, among them suspected drug users or pushers, David said.
The diocese has so far established 27 parishes that serve more than 2 million people.
“We have a parish that is only 100 square meters [wide], which is smaller than a chapel in Pampanga,” David said.
He said teenager Kian Loyd delos Santos was killed on Aug. 16, the feast of San Roque, patron saint of Caloocan, which reminded him that Filipinos were dealing with a “modern plague of addiction to illegal drugs.”
“The solution is extermination, like in the time of San Roque where sick people were burned alive inside forests,” David told his audience.
“And these days, it is risky to fight extermination,” he added.
“The call to us Christians is to stand for what is right, to show courage. This is about our faith, not politics,” he said.
David never mentioned President Duterte in his talk but he flashed on a screen the Chief Executive’s statement, “Maganda ’yan (It is good),” to have 32 drug suspects killed during simultaneous police operations in Bulacan province.
David said the killings of teenagers have been described as “isolated cases.”
He then enumerated the killing of Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19; Reynaldo de Guzman, 14; Nercy Galicio, 16; Anjay Suldao, 16; Alvin Preda, 19; Allan Lastimodo, 18; Irish Nhel Glorioso, 18; John dela Cruz, 16; Liezl Limit who was pregnant at 16; Troy Villanueva, 17; Joel Segovia, 15; Angelito Soriano, 16; Sonny Espinosa, 16; and Kenneth Lim, 20.
Most of the alleged executions were led by a “Bonnet Gang with tagaturo” (masked men guided by a snitch), he said.
Authorities claimed that those killed fought back although their wrists showed cuff marks. The victims were often left with two sachets of shabu (crystal meth) and a .38-caliber pistol.
“Children are getting used to violence,” said David, who showed a photograph of children staring at the bodies of suspected addicts.
David said the church set up the Salubong community-based drug rehabilitation program, offered sanctuaries to people in distress, and operated a child protection program “to deeply involve the diocese in the protection of lives.”
He said the diocese also put up mission stations in place of parishes in slums, offered prayers and rang church bells at 8 p.m. daily.
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