Archbishop Socrates Villegas: Church seeks justice, healing amid calls to end drug killings 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas: Church seeks justice, healing amid calls to end drug killings

Catholic bishops attend Mass in Cebu City. FILE PHOTO

MANILA— The Catholic hierarchy has appealed for justice as well as ‘healing’ from the country’s violence, as the recent killings of three teenagers triggered public outrage.

Following Tuesday’s meeting in Manila of the permanent council, the highest governing body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, they said “the toll of ‘murders under investigation’ must stop now”.

“In the name of God, stop the killings! May the justice of God come upon those responsible for the killings!” the prelates said in another statement signed by their president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

“For the sake of the children and the poor, stop their systematic murders and spreading reign of terror! In memory of those killed, let us start the healing of our bleeding nation,” they appealed.

Their statement did not mention any politician by name, but criticized the “remorselessness” by which even minors are executed under the government’s ruthless drug war.

President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier said there will be no let-up in his campaign against narcotics trade until the last drug personality is punished.

“We stand firmly against drugs and the death drugs have caused, but killing is not the solution of the problem,” the bishops reiterated.

“The healing must begin. Caring must be restored. Compassion must be active. Communion must be gained back. The rule of law must prevail,” they added.

The church officials also called for an end to the “indifference” toward extrajudicial killings, and calling on the faithful to fight “the darkness not with spark of bullets but with the light of Christ”.

“We beg for prayers and we ask for a change of heart in all of us,” the bishops also said. CBCPNews

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Bishop: ‘Can gov’t blame witnesses if they feel safer with the Church?’

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David presides over the funeral Mass for Kian Loyd delos Santos at the Sta Quiteria Parish Church in Caloocan City, August 26, 2017. VINCENT GO

MANILA— A Catholic bishop expressed sadness over a supposed threat to charge him with “obstruction of justice” for harboring a minor who witnessed the killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan insisted he had not done anything wrong and was merely responding to the request for help of the witness and her family who fear for their safety.

“I wonder in what way I have obstructed justice if all I did was provide sanctuary for witnesses upon request,” David said.

“It’s my duty as bishop and a priest and I’m not aware of violating any law just because we helped people who needed us,” he said.

The incoming Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reiterated that they will readily present the witness once they are summoned by any hearings or investigations.

“That is our simple motive for protecting witnesses: to provide them sanctuary when they ask for it; and to cooperate with the legal agencies that sincerely strive to give them justice,” said the soft-spoken prelate.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre yesterday warned the bishop of possible criminal charges for taking custody of a key witness in the death of Delos Santos.

At least four cops are facing murder and torture charges over the killing of Delos Santos as a result of the government’s ruthless war on drugs.

Police claimed the Delos Santos resisted arrest and fired at them during a drug raid but witnesses, who sought sanctuary with the bishop, said the teenager begged for his life before being shot to death by the cops.

Aguirre asserted that witnesses, especially in high-profile cases, must be placed under the government’s witness protection program.

Tension gripped at the bishop’s residence on Saturday after the father of a young witness went to the bishop’s house to initially get his children but then eventually asked the prelate to take him under its custody too.

David said the father was accompanied by representatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

“Can he blame the witnesses if they feel safer with the Church than with CIDG?” asked the bishop. CBCPNews

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(cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14)

Our brothers and sisters in Christ:

Kian, Carl, Reynaldo…they were young boys, enjoying life, loving sons of parents who doted on them. Now an entire nation knows them by name because their lives have been snuffed out so cruelly, their dreams and aspirations forever consigned to the sad realm of “what could have been but never will be”.

They cannot be statistics, for to reduce them to numbers in an increasing tally is to heap yet more injustice than has already been visited on them. They are only three of so many, awfully many, who have paid the price of what is touted to be the country’s resolute drive against criminality!

We mourn. The nation must beat its breast in a collective admission of guilt for in our silence and in our inaction, in our diffidence and in our hesitation lie our complicity in their deaths!

We are appalled by the remorselessness by which even the young are executed. The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us your bishops to declare:

In the name of God, stop the killings! May the justice of God come upon those responsible for the killings!

For the good of the country, stop the killings! The toll of “murders under investigation” must stop now.

For the sake of the children and the poor, stop their systematic murders and spreading reign of terror! In memory of those killed, let us start the healing of our bleeding nation.

The healing must begin. Malasakit must be restored. Pakikiramay must be active. Pakikipag kapwa tao must be gained back. The rule of law must prevail.

Because we Christians are heralds of a Gospel of Life there is no way that one can be a faithful Christian, let alone a fervent Catholic, and yet stay safely quiet in the face of these shocking attacks against human life. The very Gospel that the Church was founded to teach is a Gospel of Life. The Church must either be at the forefront of the intense and fervent struggle against a culture of death or the Church betrays Christ.

Saint John Paul II taught years many years ago:

Brother kills brother. Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the “spiritual” kinship uniting mankind in one great family, in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity.…

Cain’s killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: man’s revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man. (EV, 8)

When we label members of our society because of the offenses they commit – or that we impute rightly or wrongly against them – as “unsalvageable”, “irremediable”, “hopelessly perverse” or “irreparably damaged”, then it becomes all the easier for us to consent to their elimination if not to participate outright in their murder. We stand firmly against drugs and the death drugs have caused, but killing is not the solution of the problem.

The mercy of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the lost sheep is the only reason why we are still here—awa ng Diyos. The “mandate” to kill the lost sheep is poison for humanity. The wounded need healing, not more blows, and the fallen need our hands to be able to rise again, not our feet to trample on them.

We your bishops call for pakikiramay, pakikipagkapwa-tao and malasakit in action; the action to which we bid you all is utterly Christian. It is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal – the action of prayer.

1. We invite you to offer prayers particularly for those killed in the government’s campaign against drugs, as well as for all victims of violence and the war in Marawi, in our country for a FORTY DAY period, starting SEPTEMBER 23 and ending on NOVEMBER 1. Please offer the rosary daily for the killed and receive Holy Communion as an offering for their souls. May the souls of the killed find rest. Prayer heals us. Prayer helps their souls.

2. Subject to the approval of the diocesan bishops, we appeal for the pealing of church bells at 8:00 pm during the same forty day period in remembrance of the souls of those killed. The ancient pious tradition of De Profundis is worth restoring. Let the bells call us to pray for the dead.

3. One beautiful Filipino custom observed in prayerful remembrance of the dead is the tirik ng kandila sa patay. So we urge our Filipino Catholics, during this same 40 day period, to light candles in front of their homes, in cemeteries, in public places, and particularly, at spots where the victims of the on-going violence have been felled and have lost their lives, while praying for them and for their families. Candle lighting can soothe grieving hearts.

4. Finally, we beg you to contribute to the support and the schooling of the orphaned children of the victims of these murders, or of their siblings, or the support and sustenance of their families. Almsgiving covers many sins. Almsgiving heals.

We intend to offend none but the evil in our midst. We are angry at none but the indifference amongst us. We fight the darkness not with spark of bullets but with the light of Christ. We beg for prayers and we ask for a change of heart in all of us.

Let us turn once more to God, for they who put their trust in bullets and weapons will be confounded. But upon the nation that turns to God and prays, God promises the healing of the land and the calming of the storms that rage in our hearts.

Let the healing begin.

For the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, September 12, 2017

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

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