“Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20.13)
Statement of Social Action Network on Drugs and Extrajudicial Violence
We, the lay, religious and clergy members of the Social Action Network (SAN) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, comprising the 86 Arch/Diocesan Social Action Centers throughout the country, are alarmed by the spate of killings of thousands of suspected criminals in the war waged against illegal drugs and criminality. We strongly call for respect of the dignity of life. Thou shall not kill.
As Christians and members of SAN, we have the moral and social responsibility to defend life against uncivilized killings of suspected drug users, pushers and traffickers in the war against illegal drugs. More so, if the killings include innocent civilians, they are deprived of their right to life, liberty, personal security, public hearing and due process.
The drug problem must be solved. It destroys both human life and family. It also brings harm to the fabric of our society. It is a complex problem, an obstacle to justice, peace, development, and common good. We express our full support for President Duterte’s goal in eradicating illegal drugs and criminality in the country, and applaud his political will and determination towards the goal.
However, the President’s pronouncements which imply support for extrajudicial killings and disregard for due process are deplorable. Killing of suspected drug traffickers without due process, even in the name of a just cause, is morally unacceptable. It is a violation of human rights and the rule of law. “The end does not justify the means.” We cannot achieve a just and peaceful society through illegal, immoral, and fundamentally evil means.
The spate of deaths reported from police operations and vigilante killings is very alarming. The death toll continues to increase every day and the wave of killings shows no sign of subsiding. Instead of fostering a situation conducive to peace and unity, the situation is becoming alarmingly hostile. The “shoot to kill” order of the President and the Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa against suspected drug pushers and criminals resisting arrest, is an apparent instigation of extrajudicial violence. It is beyond what is morally and socially acceptable.
As in any economic shock, and natural and man-made disasters, the poor are always more vulnerable to loss of life, and the destruction, violation and suppression of their rights. Reports indicate that majority of those killed are poor people residing in squatter areas. The President’s claim of ensuring and protecting those who have less in life becomes merely lip service should the State continue to violate and disregard the rights of the poor.
Every human person has an inalienable right to life, which cannot be taken away from anyone. A person committing wrongdoing should undergo due process under the law, and be provided a chance to change his/ her ways. Government is duty-bound to ensure that the rights of all persons are respected and protected, and that sanctity of life is upheld.
We call upon President Duterte to put a stop to extrajudicial violence. While fulfilling duty to eradicate illegal drugs, the President has authority and therefore a greater obligation to be in the forefront of respecting the rule of law, which calls for respect for the judicial process in his fight against crime and illegal drugs. Every suspect should be given a chance to defend themselves in court and ultimately, change their ways. Respect of the dignity of life should always be a priority in any administration.
We also call on PNP Chief Director General de la Rosa to adhere to their mission as protector of the people. He must provide just and humane directives to the police in pursuing and arresting criminals, suspected drug dependents and not to resort to extrajudicial means when accosting suspected criminals. Let the rule of law and rule of engagement be observed at all times with appropriate charges and punishment imposed for any violation.
Further, the police personnel and other government security forces should firm up their intelligence work, monitoring and investigation. Cases must be filed in the proper courts. Suspected users, pushers, protectors and “lords” must be tried, without fear and favor, in adherence to due process of law.
Likewise, we call on our judiciary to initiate the need for reform in the country’s justice system. Extrajudicial violence could be an expression of mistrust in our corrupted criminal justice system. Impunity encourages disgruntled citizens to resort to criminality. Let there be overhaul of the Philippine criminal justice system to ensure the right of every Filipino to fair trial and security.
We value the inviolability and sacredness of life hence, as Social Action Network, we are willing to support, participate and/or coordinate with government appropriate agencies for the care and rehabilitation for drug dependents. We encourage our network to offer and open our facilities and resources as our commitment to save life, especially those who are least in laws and life.
We urge every citizen of goodwill and fellow Christians to actively exercise their prophetic role by denouncing evil acts that violate the dignity of life. Let us be the visible force for common good as we take a stand against extrajudicial violence. Let us continue to be instruments of justice and peace as we continue to be vigilant in respecting, promoting and defending the rights and dignity of everyone because we are all made in the image of God. Let us be united in calling upon President Duterte to respect the dignity of life by putting a stop to extrajudicial violence.
13 October 2016