Jojo M. Fung – « An Emerging Theology of Human Security »

2. Critique of Human Insecurity and Outcomes

The intensification of human insecurity has led the Church of the Philippines to level the strongest critique of the Duterte’s administration. The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) issued a denunciatory statement. 

We are alarmed at the continued extrajudicial killings, which seem to go unchecked, without trial or investigation. We are alarmed at the silence of the government, groups, and majority of the people in the face of these killings…this problem, if it remains unchecked, leads to a culture of impunity. We demand that the concerned government agencies continue apprehending those involved in drug trafficking but avoiding extrajudicial killings, and pursue and apprehend vigilantes who carry out such illegal actions.[1]

The Manila Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church decried the discriminatory enforcement of the law and retributive justice.

We fully reject all careless, callous, or discriminatory enforcement of law. We denounce retributive justice but uphold restorative justice that seeks to hold the offender accountable to the victimized person, and to the disrupted community. Through God’s transforming power, restorative justice seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community. [2]

The strongest critique of the threat to human security posed by the EJK came from the 113th Plenary session of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, held on July 9, 2016. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayan-Dagupan called on the CBCP “to stand up against what is morally wrong and uphold the Church’s teachings even if it means going to the ‘wilderness … the right is right and the wrong is wrong…  we will not withdraw from the mission of the Lord. We will stand and defend every person’s life and dignity…  We will shield the weak from harm, we will protect the confused from error.” On August 25, 2016, Archbishop Socrates called for prayer to heal the “wounds and divisions” afflicting the country. Archbishop Socrates explained, “Our first armor is prayer. So let us pray even more,” making additional reference to a “prayer for healing of the nation”, which asks for unity, solution to crimes and corruption, and compassion for those who died “in the present purge.” He interjected, “The killings continue to rise. The divisions seem to widen even more. The indifference to the violations of the Commandments of God is spreading. We must not give up.”[3]

The CBCP subsequently released a pastoral statement entitled “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – Oracle of the Lord God (Ezekiel 18:32) on January 30, 2017, signed by Abp. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D. President of the CBCP.[4]

We, your bishops, are deeply concerned due to many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs. This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome. But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers. We are concerned not only for those who have been killed. The situation of the families of those killed is also cause for concern. Their lives have only become worse. An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account. An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong. It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that (according to them) needs to be done.

The outcry from the Church of the Philippines has incentivized the laity to organize themselves as the Sanggunian Laiko ng Filipinas or SLP that calls on all Catholics to join a “show of force” against the ills plaguing Philippine Society, including extrajuidical killing in President’s war on drugs, at Our Lady of Edsa Shrine in Quezon City on Sunday, November 5, 2017.[5] Besides, the Mga Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings (Manlaban sa EJK) was established, with lawyers, law professors, judges and law students opposed to human rights violations under the Duterte’s Administration. 

At the same time, the Duterte’s Administration has transferred all drug-related operations from the controversy-riddled Philippine National Police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. The newly appointed DDB chair Dionisio Santiago, signals a new direction and mindset for the program. He states, “This campaign aims to change the prevailing law-enforcement focused narrative of the antidrug campaign. The fight against drugs is about protecting the life of the people. It is about the life of a drug user who needs help to free himself or herself from drug dependence.” Dionisio acknowledges that “the drug problem is rooted in something more complex: the social inequality entrenched in the country. The issue of drugs is a poverty issue, he said, with many destitute Filipinos forced by hunger and sickness to resort to crime, such as drug-running, to survive. The problem is “prevalent in marginalized communities – understandable [because] you have no options.”[6]

In the meantime, the net satisfaction rating of the President has plummeted “in all geographic areas… (except in Mindanao) as well as socioeconomic classes, the steepest decline was registered in Classes D and E, or the country’s poorest. The drop was a startling 17 points, reflecting widespread dissatisfaction among a sector that, while bearing the brunt of grinding institutional poverty, now also finds itself in the pitiless crosshairs of the administration’s war on drugs.” [7]

[1] Cf. Statement of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

[2] Cf. “United Methodist Church slams killings in Duterte’s drug war”.

[3] Cf. “The Church in Wilderness” Message of Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas at the Opening of the 113th CBCP Plenary Assembly, July 9, 2016, Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila, Philippines.

[4] Cf. “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – oracle of the Lord God (Ezekiel 18:32), CBCP Statement.

[5] Cf. “Lay Group Calls for ‘Show of Force’ Against Drug killings’ Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 Nov 2017, p. A1 & A10. 

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cf. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 Nov 2017.