President’s drug war is ‘biggest lie’ to people, says bishop
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that his violent war on drugs is aimed at stemming the country’s drug problem is the “biggest lie” peddled to Filipinos in the past three years, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said on Monday.
Addressing a democracy forum in Taguig City, David underscored the importance of combating the spread of lies on social media to help victims of extrajudicial killings and their families get justice.
David, who was threatened by the President several times for criticizing his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs, failed to attend the gathering due to security reasons.
Instead, he delivered his speech to the Second Conference on Democracy and Disinformation held at the University of the Philippines in Bonifacio Global City through a video call.
Moral, spiritual issue
“Truth is not just a political issue. It is, above all, a moral and spiritual issue,” David said.
“It matters a lot that we know what the truth is when families claim that their loved ones did not fight back and that they did not have a gun or (illegal drugs) in their possession,” he said.
Asked what was the biggest lie he had heard since 2016, David bluntly replied: “The biggest lie is that this drug war is meant to eradicate illegal drugs.”
David said the fact that a number of Filipino Catholics were openly supporting the murders of drug suspects only showed how the clergy had failed to educate them about the teachings of the Church.
He pointed out that while lying was considered a major sin in Catholicism, many Filipino Catholics had been consciously helping the spread of lies on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“I say with all humility that it means that we have failed, that we have failed to educate consciences,” David lamented.
“We’ve failed in establishing connections between faith and life, that people can live a split-level kind of Christianity; that people can compartmentalize religion and social life, and see nothing wrong about things like these and at the same time claim to be believers, claim to be Christians,” he said.
“How can we even claim to be believers in a Trinitarian God if we’re not capable of renouncing evil in all its rawness? And what I observe all around is really raw evil,” David said.
The bishop reiterated that his criticisms of the President was “nothing personal,” noting that his previous statements were actually directed at state agencies tasked to enforce the law.
He also shared how he had to use his personal Facebook account after the President threatened to behead him for his supposed involvement in the narcotics trade.
“I don’t really feel alluded (by the President’s accusations), but I have to emphasize that there’s no truth to it,” he said.
David admitted that he was “stunned” after the President linked him to illegal drugs and that he purposely turned down the offer of the Caloocan police to provide protective agents for him.
“I have heard many instances when people were routinely arrested for possessing a gram of ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) and we know that planting of evidence is typical occurrence in the drug war,” he said.
He said he decided to call out the police after observing how people were being held for supposed violation of the law.
A number of them, he added, had came up to him and informed him that policemen had been violating their basic civil liberties in pursuing the President’s drug war.
“I call attention to the way they arrest people. You don’t call it an invitation if you barge into the homes of people and you arrest them without warrant,” David said.
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