Cebu archbishop: Duterte hasty, ill-advised in baring drug list
CEBU CITY– Ill-advised and half-baked.
This was how Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma described the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to publicly identify the local officials allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade.
While supporting the President’s campaign to curb illegal drugs, the 66-year-old prelate said the fundamental requirements of due process and the rule of law must be observed at all times.
“There are people who welcome the President’s move to name names, but there are also those who are anxious of what he did,” Palma told reporters after he ordained 12 new priests at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Cebu City on Tuesday.
The dignity of the human person is as important as human life, according to Palma.
“The President said it (contents of drug list) may be true or may not be true. The question is what if it’s not true? Names were already revealed in public. How could those who may have been wrongly accused redeem their dignity and the good name they built all these years?,” Palma said.
“While we appreciate the efforts against illegal drugs, we also question the process in which things are done,” he added.
Palma admitted having qualms on the veracity of President Duterte’s drug list.
He said he was surprised when President Duterte announced the name of one person he knew — Judge Roberto Natividad of the Regional Trial Court Branch 32 in Calbayog City, who was shot dead by a still unidentified assailant in January 2008.
“Paggawas sa name sa judge, naka-sulti ko nga kilala man ko kini nga judge. Namatay naman kini. (When the judge’s name was mentioned, I said he’s already dead),” said Palma who served in the Diocese of Calbayog in Samar.
That alone, he said, was an indication that the list given to the President was not reliable.
“The list is either not updated or an assurance that it’s not really realistic,” he said.
Palma also expressed doubts on the inclusion of former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama in the list of drug protectors.
The archbishop said Rama’s name mighthave been included after Rama admitted knowing the late drug lord Cresistomo “Tata Negro” Llaguno, even playing basketball with the suspect.
Rama had said he wanted to help Llaguno surrender to authorities but the latter was gunned down in Barangay Lorega-San Miguel, Cebu City in 2010.
“He (Rama) wanted to help one drug (lord) who was trying to change his life, was ready to reveal certain things but got killed. The former mayor’s move may have been misinterpreted,” Palma said.
Although contents in President Duterte’s drug list were reportedly “validated and revalidated” by different law enforcement units, Palma said accusations should go with sufficient evidence and proof.
On the other hand, the archbishop acknowledged improvements in the peace and order situation in Cebu since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), earlier reported that almost all forms of crimes, including robbery and theft, dropped due to the relentless police operations against illegal drugs and other crimes.
“There are definitely positive changes that the Church felt. This is a signal of hope,” Palma said.
However, killings went up due to the alleged shootouts between policemen and suspected drug pushers. Whether these could be categorized as murder or rubouts or homicide would depend on investigations of these shootings. But there has indeed been a rise in the murders or extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers whose bodies were dumped in public view and attached with cardboards tagging them as drug pushers. The attacks are perceived to have been done by vigilantes or by drug syndicates simply purging their ranks of potential witnesses for the police.
“We’re just wary about the unverified listing and extrajudicial killings,” Palma added.
To assist the government in its drive against illegal drugs, Palma said the Archdiocese of Cebu would launch parish-based programs for the rehabilitation of drug users.
He encouraged priests to open parishes and chapels to drug users who seek their help for rehabilitation.
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