A bishop in the Philippines attacked the de-humanizing language being used in the country’s drug war, saying his “heart bleeds when there are Catholics who agree that criminals cannot be reformed.”
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Kalookan was speaking during Mass at the Singles for Christ International Conference in Makati City.
“I hope you understand why my heart bleeds when I hear about Catholics who agree that addicts are not human,” he said on Sunday, according to CBCPNews, the official news agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“My heart bleeds when there are Catholics who agree that criminals cannot be reformed, that they deserved to die and be exterminated if we are to have a peaceful Philippine society,” the bishop said.
In January, the national police force announced it is relaunching the government’s controversial anti-drug war.
Human rights groups say President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs has claimed the lives of at least 13,000 people since it was launched in 2016.
Duterte has been accused of turning a blind eye to extra-judicial killings by security forces, and the president once publicly called on law enforcement officers to kill his own children, two of whom are politicians, if they’re found to be involved in illegal drugs.
“I know they have declared a war. But my question is war against whom? Before declaring a war, are we not supposed to identify first who our enemies and allies are? That’s all we are asking,” David said.
The bishop’s diocese covers some of the poorer areas of metropolitan Manila, and he said his territory has become a “killing field.”
He said what addicts need most is help, not revenge, and Christians must be the ones to help them.
“It’s not going to be easy. We took a stand and our advocacy is to stop the killing and start the healing and now we are in bad company because we are trying to save the addicts, the people you are told to avoid,” David said.