Senior Mindanao prelate calls out Duterte in pastoral letter
Urging the public to vote according to their conscience and basic values, a senior prelate in Mindanao has called out presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for his alleged involvement in and failure to resolve extrajudicial killings in Davao City.
In a pastoral letter dated May 3, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said that while the Church does not endorse any candidate, it was their duty as priests to make sure that voters’ conscience was “well-formed and informed in accordance with the Gospel values that the Church proclaims.”
“Conscience, to my mind, is the first and most important criterion. The candidate must be a person of integrity and honesty. He or she follows the dictates of his conscience that tells him what is morally right and wrong. He respects human rights and the dignity of every person. He is transparent and accountable in the conduct of his public office,” the letter read.
“Candidates who have not undergone change themselves and live moral lives are not worthy and capable of changing our society. Change begins within each one of us. It is we as a people who can change our society. So once again, we appeal to you to vote according to your conscience. And to vote for candidates of conscience–i.e., persons of moral integrity,” it added.
Citing a report by the Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, Ledesma said Duterte was responsible for his “inaction” over unresolved killings in his turf, supposedly perpetrated by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).
“Lately, I have received a deeply disturbing report on Davao City. In 1998–2015, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have documented 1,424 extra-judicial killings. The victims include 132 children (17 years and below),” he said.
“None of the perpetrators of the so-called “Davao Death Squad” have been apprehended. The prime responsibility for the inaction over these unsolved crimes must rest squarely on the Mayor and local government officials. A city with such a high rate of unsolved killings cannot be called a city of peace and order,” Ledesma added.
‘Culture of death’
Duterte, who has been Davao mayor for more than 22 years, was known and widely criticized for his iron-fist style of leadership and approach to crimes and alleged links to the DDS. According to crime statistics released by the Philippine National Police, Davao City ranked highest in recorded murders with 1,032 cases from 2010 to 2015.
The feisty mayor, who enjoys a double-digit lead over his rivals in preference surveys, vowed to wipe out criminality and drugs within three to six months should he win the presidency.
Ledesma said extrajudicial killings promote a “culture of death,” calling it “illegal, immoral, sinful,” and unjustifiable acts.
“’Thou shall not kill.’ Human life is sacred from the moment of conception to its natural end. As Christians, we believe in the dignity of every person made in God’s image and from which flow human rights–the most basic of which is the right to life. The Church proclaims the Gospel of life and opposes the culture of death,” Ledesma said.
“Some manifestations of the culture of death are abortion, war, capital punishment–and extra-judicial killings. These summary killings, without formal charges and due process, can never be justified–whether or not the victims are suspected criminals or rebels or workers on strike,” he added.
Corruption, mining, infidelities
The archbishop also urged voters not to elect corrupt politicians “who use their office to enrich themselves and have millions of pesos deposited in their bank accounts” and candidates who “destroy the environment through irresponsible logging and mining and issue permits that destroy our natural resources.”
“’Thou shall not steal.’ Those who are guilty of this commandment are not only those petty thieves who steal hundreds of pesos. The worst offenders are corrupt politicians who use their office to enrich themselves and have millions of pesos deposited in their bank accounts. Can a genuine Christian, in conscience, vote for corrupt candidates?” Ledesma wrote.
“Pope Francis has reminded us of global warming and the need to protect the environment. Ecological destruction is also a manifestation of the culture of death. As Christians we need to care for the needy and to care for the earth. Can a genuine Christian, in conscience, elect candidates who destroy the environment through irresponsible logging and mining and issue permits that destroy our natural resources?” he said.
In a recent expose, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Duterte had transactions amounting to billions in multiple bank accounts.
Liberal Party stalwart Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice also alleged that Duterte’s campaign was being financed by mining firms of one Manny Zamora and one Dennis Uy, but the mayor’s camp denied the allegations.
Ledesma also alluded to Duterte’s boasting of his marital infidelities, as he reiterated Church teachings against adultery.
“As Christians we value marital fidelity. Adultery is sinful and immoral, a violation of the sixth and ninth commandments. Can a genuine Christian, in conscience, vote for those who flaunt their infidelities?” he said.
“We urge you not to sell your votes. We urge you to vote for candidates of conscience with a consistent pro-life ethic and reject candidates who promote the culture of death. The choice you make will determine whether we live in the light and progress as a nation or bring back the darkness that we have experienced and rejected in the past–an autocratic regime characterized by violence, human rights violations and corruption, and a reign of terror and greed,” Ledesma added. JE
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